The version of this story that appears in the print edition of The American Lawyer incorrectly characterized the circumstances under which Clyde & Co hired two lawyers from Connell Foley. The sixth paragraph of the story has been revised to correctly describe those circumstances. We regret the error.
The United States has not been a happy hunting ground for the United Kingdom’s leading law firms. Ever since Clifford Chance’s troubled merger with Rogers & Wells in 1999—which quickly ran into difficulties because of clashing cultures and incompatible partner remuneration systems—the English elite have struggled to penetrate what remains one of the world’s most competitive legal markets.
In the five short years since Clyde & Co established its first stateside presence, simultaneously launching offices in New York and Los Angeles, it has already done better than most of its peers. The London-based firm says that its U.S. revenues grew 37 percent in the last fiscal year—more than those of any member of The Am Law 100. It is projecting a further 50 percent growth this year across its four U.S. offices.
North America was an important component of Clyde’s practice long before its lawyers first ventured across the Atlantic. Throughout the nineties, U.S. insurers began investing heavily in the London market—including in many of Clyde’s longest-standing clients. The firm also acted directly for a number of leading U.S. companies, such as property and casualty giant ACE Group, which has been Clyde’s biggest client globally for years.

Clyde’s lack of any U.S. presence, however, meant that it had to refer significant volumes of work to American firms—some $10 million in annual revenues on average, according to Clyde CEO Peter Hasson. The main beneficiary was Le­Boeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae (now Dewey & LeBoeuf). To show its gratitude, LeBoeuf gave Clyde a framed flag—half Stars and Stripes, half Union Jack. It hangs in the eighth-floor client reception area of Clyde’s London headquarters to this day. (A small plaque underneath reads: “To our U.K. friends at Clyde & Co. From your U.S. friends at LeBoeuf.”)

Eager to tap into the U.S. market to minimize this lost revenue, Clyde started sounding out potential American merger partners in 2001. It soon became clear that a large-scale combination would be unworkable because of conflicts. But in 2005, Clyde merged with Beaumont & Son, a London aviation boutique. Beaumont had a long-standing referral relationship with New York and Los Angeles–based aviation specialist Condon & Forsyth, which led to four of that firm’s partners joining Clyde to found its U.S. practice in 2006.

Clyde management board member James Burns, who now oversees the firm’s U.S. operations, says the Condon team gave the firm “a nucleus to build around.” Clyde quickly followed up with the hire of senior litigator Michael Knoer­zer from Le­Boeuf—a top-billing insurance lawyer. Clyde opened in San Francisco with a four-partner team from Duane Morris in 2008, then brought in a two-partner team from New Jersey firm Connell Foley after key client ACE Limited, which regularly retained the pair on Bermuda form insurance liability coverage work, expressed interest in seeing the duo move to Clyde. In 2009 Clyde bolstered its New York office with leading marine insurance partner John Woods from Thacher Proffitt.

While Clyde’s U.S. practice is still relatively small, at just over 70 lawyers, Beazley plc’s New York–based claims manager Beth Diamond says that it has already become a “serious contender” for any American insurance work. The firm’s growing standing in the market was reflected this March, when Clyde made arguably its biggest U.S. hire to date, capturing O’Melveny & Myers’s former insurance chair Paul Koepff.

And with further offices planned—Houston is at the top of the list, according to a senior Clyde partner—the firm’s relentless U.S. expansion only looks set to continue.