Clyde & Co Senior Partner Simon Konsta.
Clyde & Co Senior Partner Simon Konsta. ()

London-based insurance specialty firm Clyde & Co has opened offices in Chicago and Washington, D.C., with the hire of 10 partners from Troutman Sanders.

The team, which handles a range of insurance coverage, trial and litigation work, includes Troutman Sanders’ Chicago managing partner, Eileen Bower, who will lead Clyde’s new office in that city alongside Troutman Sanders insurance litigation partner Clint Cameron. A Clyde spokesman said that a group of associates and other staff will follow the partners from Troutman Sanders, but that negotiations over those moves are still ongoing.

In addition to Bower, the new Chicago partners are Clint Cameron, David Cutter and James Sanders. In Washington, partners Jack Gerstein, David Gische, Leslie Ahari, Meredith Werner, Patrick Hofer and Gaby Richeimer are joining the firm.

Clyde senior partner Simon Konsta said the hires, which come roughly six months after the firm launched in Miami by merging with local litigation boutique Thornton Davis Fein, represent “another significant milestone” in its transatlantic expansion.

Having arrived in the U.S. just over a decade ago, 2,000-lawyer Clyde, the U.K.’s 12th-largest law firm by revenue, now has nearly 50 partners and 200 lawyers across eight U.S. offices, including Atlanta, San Francisco, Newport Beach, New Jersey and New York City.

Clyde’s former senior partner, James Burns, who stood down in November to take on a newly created role of Americas head in order to focus on developing the business stateside, told The American Lawyer that the firm’s U.S. revenue grew 20 percent in the last fiscal year and is forecast to hit $110-120 million within the next 12 months, partly as a result of the Troutman Sanders hires. That would put the firm comfortably within the Am Law 200, according to the latest survey data.

“The goal is to be the No. 1 insurance law firm in the U.S.—plain and simple,” Burns said. “The U.S. is the world’s largest insurance market by some distance, so as an insurance-focused firm, it is strategically essential for us to have a significant presence.”

Burns, who relocated to San Francisco from Clyde’s London office following his change of role, said that the firm has been looking at establishing a base in Chicago, a market that is important to several of the its largest insurance clients, including Allianz and Zurich, “almost from the word ‘go.’” (Burns said the very first business trip he took at Clyde was to the Windy City back in 1990.)

Clyde’s San Francisco managing partner Bill Casey said the firm has grown in the U.S. by targeting insurance lawyers at broader practice firms, where insurance generally isn’t a priority and often creates conflict issues.

The Troutman Sanders partners joining Clyde in Chicago previously worked at insurance boutique Ross, Dixon & Bell and joined Troutman Sanders as a result of the merger between the two firms in 2009.

“What they found in Clyde was a firm that was a really good natural fit for them,” said Casey, who found himself in a similar situation when his firm, San Francisco insurance boutique Hancock, Rothert & Bunshoft, combined with Duane Morris in 2006. “We merged for stability, but found a mix of practices that didn’t identify insurance as a priority,” he added.

Troutman insurance chair Tony Jones said in a statement that the firm “remains committed” to the practice. “We will continue to have a very strong team of more than 25 insurance lawyers in Chicago, Washington D.C., Orange County, San Diego and San Francisco, who are well-positioned to meet the needs of our clients,” he said.

The Troutman Sanders group was also attracted to Clyde’s extensive international network, Bower said. Having merged with its major London rival, Barlow Lyde & Gilbert, in 2011, Clyde is now the world’s largest specialist insurance firm, with more than 40 offices across six continents. “[Insurance] clients increasingly want support not just locally, but across the U.S. and the world,” Bower said. (The deal between Clyde and BLG, which at the time was the largest ever U.K. law firm combination, a mantle since taken by the recent three-way tie-up between CMS Cameron McKenna, Nabarro and Olswang, was the subject of a feature story in The American Lawyer.)

Burns said that Clyde has now “reached a tipping point” in the U.S., adding: “With the footprint we now have, we genuinely can offer our clients the national coverage that we’ve been aiming to achieve ever since we started [in the U.S.] around 10 years ago.”

He still sees “significant potential” for further growth, however, and said the firm will be seeking to establish additional offices in North America, with Los Angeles atop the agenda and both Dallas and Houston under consideration in order to tap into the “incredibly important” Texas market. “We will actively look at L.A. and Texas, but we will wait until we find the right people for us. That can take time,” he said.

Clyde will also start to broaden its U.S. practice to more closely resemble the firm’s offerings in London and other international locations.

While Clyde is best known for its leading insurance practice, which Burns says accounts for around 70 percent of the firm’s total revenue, it is actually one of four key sector focuses, alongside energy and transportation, trade and commodities, and infrastructure.

But despite launching in the U.S. with a team of four marine and aviation partners from transport boutique Condon & Forsyth in 2006, Clyde’s U.S. practice almost exclusively handles insurance-related work.

“We’ve been able to build our U.S. business around the insurance sector, as that’s our core practice and we have a good story to tell,” Burns said. “But it’s always been the plan to diversify our offering in the U.S. so that it’s more reflective of the sectors that the firm focuses on internationally, and we think we now have a strong enough base to do that.”

The firm is already “actively looking” at potential hires in international arbitration, one of Clyde’s fastest-growing practices globally, and will look to recruit a team in that area in Washington in “the coming months,” Burns said.

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