Los Angeles-based Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith has opened a Berwyn, Pa., office with the addition of 14 lawyers from insurance law boutique Nelson Levine de Luca & Hamilton, Lewis Brisbois announced late Wednesday.
The office will have a strong focus on data security issues to start.
John Mullen is joining the firm as managing partner of the new office and chairman of the data breach, cyberlaw and security practice. Partner John Salvucci is joining the firm as chairman of the newly-formed life sciences practice. Mullen and Salvucci had been with Cozen O’Connor before joining Nelson Levine in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Mullen had created the data privacy practice at Nelson Levine and plans to grow that practice at Lewis Brisbois with a focus on representing companies covered by “cyberinsurance” policies, the firm said.
Nelson Levine attorneys joining Mullen’s team in the move to Lewis Brisbois are partners Christopher DiIenno, Lawrence D. Jackson, James E. Prendergast and Claudia D. McCarron and associates Sian Schafle, Kevin Dolan, Laura Rieben, Ryan Loughlin and Kathryn Mellinger. Joining Salvucci in the move to Lewis Brisbois from Nelson Levine are partners Paulyne A. Gardner-Smith and Thomas Harrington and associate Samuel Reich.
After the departure of the 14 attorneys, Nelson Levine is left with approximately 60 attorneys firmwide.
Mullen said in a statement that the transition, “though major,” went smoothly, with the team’s insurance carrier and brokerage clients showing support for the move.
“We knew we had an industry-leading group but needed a national platform to continue to extend our market position,” Mullen said in the statement. He said Lewis Brisbois has a reputation in the insurance industry for dependability and cost control. He said his team, when combined with the existing data privacy attorneys at Lewis Brisbois, forms the largest such practice in the United States.
Nelson Levine Chairman Michael R. Nelson said he isn’t very familiar with Lewis Brisbois, which he said bills itself as a general service firm, but said the firm may be a better match for Mullen and the other departing lawyers.
“We are a better match for people who are insurance experts and want to be lawyers who impact the insurance industry,” Nelson said of his firm’s focus on remaining a specialized boutique handling the needs of the insurance industry.
While Nelson said he would be foolish to say the group’s departure would have no impact on the firm, he said it won’t have an impact as far as the firm’s growth strategy.
He said the firm would probably have to restructure to some degree as a result, though he wasn’t yet sure how that would play out. Anytime an attorney or group leaves the firm, Nelson said, the firm examines whether it was something it could do better or if it was a natural evolution. He said he thinks this group’s departure is the latter.
“We work on teamwork and what makes the most sense for the firm as a whole,” Nelson said. “This was not like that group unilaterally left. It was a conscious decision by the firm and by them that they may have a benefit somewhere else. It’s a mutual parting of the ways.”
Mullen declined to respond to whether the move was a mutual parting of ways. He said he initially left the firm Feb. 9 with a group of eight lawyers and Salvucci and McCarron left a few days later.
“In the world of data breach, you benefit as a practitioner in that world from having a national platform,” Mullen said.
Formed in 1979, Lewis Brisbois has grown to about 900 lawyers among 30 offices across the United States. The firm was 88th in last year’s Am Law 100 ranking, bringing in $344.5 million in revenue, $395,000 in revenue per lawyer and $720,000 in average profits per equity partner.
Nelson declined to share his firm’s financial information.
Lewis Brisbois’ entry into the Philadelphia market continues a string of firms making the move to the city in the last few years. And many of those moves have been focused on the insurance industry. Gordon & Rees opened up in Philadelphia last year with a team of insurance lawyers from Cozen O’Connor and opened in Pittsburgh the year before that. Also in 2013, New Jersey-based Carroll McNulty Kull hired a team of insurance lawyers from Christie Pabarue and Young to open a Philadelphia office.
Frank D’Amore of Attorney Career Catalysts, who said this is another sign of out-of-state firms having an interest in Philadelphia, said there are two things that could be contributing to that phenomenon.
While it isn’t quite on the same level, D’Amore compared the trend to labor and employment boutiques who found there was a market for national firms in that practice area. While the growth in insurance practices isn’t by boutiques, per se, firms are trying to grow this practice across the country because it proved to be “a really good hedge during the recession.” Practices with higher rates that forced firms to give discounts were different from the insurance work, which D’Amore said just kept on coming for firms. He said growth in insurance practices may continue for those reasons.
The other motivator for firms looking to grow in Philadelphia may have nothing to do with Philadelphia.
For so many firms, D’Amore said, if there is a group that fits their practice and economic models, they will open anywhere. That is happening in Philadelphia and across the country, he said.
“Firms now are going to go where the business is,” D’Amore said.
Lewis Brisbois founding partner Robert F. Lewis didn’t return a call for comment.
Mullen’s practice focuses on the preparation and defense of network security and privacy data breach events, including data loss, pre- and post-event damage control and prevention strategies. When a client’s data is breached, Mullen focuses on measuring the loss, overseeing the forensic investigations, advising on customer notification and working with the client to prevent further breaches.
Salvucci focuses his practice on representing health care professionals and medical device manufacturers in professional liability matters.