Craig Courter
Craig Courter ()

LeClairRyan acquired a workers’ compensation boutique Tuesday, and with it the firm believes it’s getting an innovative approach to the legal industry.

“This is an area of work we hadn’t gotten into,” said LeClairRyan corporate and securities shareholder Christopher Lange in Richmond, Virginia, where he’s a member of the firm’s leadership. “[They] built a better mousetrap.”

Pizzo & Haman’s two founders, Christopher Pizzo and Benjamin “Clark” Haman, represent insurance companies in claims they settle related to workers’ compensation disputes. Pizzo and Haman join LeClairRyan as shareholders in Newark, New Jersey, and Los Angeles, respectively, as do nine senior counsel, three counsel and nine legal support professionals.

Pizzo previously served as deputy general counsel at Patriot National Inc. in Fort Lauderdale, while Haman was a managing attorney at Zenith Insurance Co. in Los Angeles. The two former in-house lawyers started Pizzo & Haman in early 2016.

Lange said that LeClairRyan already has several existing insurance defense practices related to liability, employment and corporate officers, and noted that his firm seeks out lateral hires that fit its footprint. LeClairRyan is also no stranger to mergers, having in recent years absorbed firms in HoustonNew JerseyNew York and its own hometown of Richmond.

Pizzo & Haman won’t bring any new offices to LeClairRyan, which has 26 offices primarily on the East Coast. LeClairRyan most recently built out its aviation liability practice with the addition of nine lawyers from Dentons. Last year, LeClairRyan added another seven insurance industry litigators in Boston from Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough.

“This is an area where we’ve had different amounts of requests from clients to service the work,” Lange said of the workers’ compensation practice his firm is getting from Pizzo & Haman.

Pizzo said he and Haman hoped to take advantage of existing firm relationships at LeClairRyan to grow their business.

“We have had a good deal of success as an independent firm, and what we realized is we have a service delivery model that’s different,” Pizzo said. “We can grow slowly or organically. Or we can partner with a team that understands our approach, believes in our model and delivers it more broadly to a pre-existing set of established clients. We think our long-term growth would be greater as part of a platform at LeClairRyan.”

So what makes the group so innovative?

For one, it’s rare for workers’ compensation practices that traditionally charge lower hourly rates to fit in at large law firms. And Pizzo and Haman’s group likes to approach their work like longtime litigation counsel for insurers, instead of just swooping in when the need for a settlement arises, Pizzo said. Those ongoing relationships sometimes allow Pizzo and Haman to settle faster, Pizzo said.

The duo charge slightly more than their competitors in the workers’ compensation arena, said Pizzo, putting his firm’s hourly rates at between $165 to $200 per hour, compared to standard rates in the field of around $140 per hour.