Clyde & Co., a London law firm with locations around the world, has opened an Atlanta office — its fourth in the U.S. — with three lawyers from Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi's local office who represent insurers. Robert Fisher and James Chin join as partners and Taylor Davis as an associate.
Clyde & Co. has grown far beyond its London roots, with 33 offices and 1,400 lawyers in Europe, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East, Canada and the U.S. It opened its first overseas office in Hong Kong in 1981.
The firm has expanded substantially in the U.S. after opening a New York office in 2006. That was followed by offices in New Jersey, San Francisco and, now, Atlanta.
James Burns, the senior partner-elect for Clyde & Co., said the firm has added close to 100 U.S. lawyers in seven years, representing $70 million in revenue for the firm.
Clydes, as the firm is known in London, posted 2012-2013 revenue of 336.6 million pounds, a 17 percent increase over the previous year, according to London legal publication The Lawyer. Profit per equity partner increased 5 percent to 580,000 pounds.
Burns is a leader of the firm's international expansion, particularly its entry into the North American market. He said Clyde & Co.'s strategy is to focus on key legal sectors including aviation, shipping, international trade, projects construction — and insurance.
"We want to be the preeminent insurance law firm in the world," said Burns, whose own practice is in that area. "We are focused on a market that is truly inspirational and growing — and, thankfully, not a lot of other firms are doing what we do."
"For some reason, law firms do not seem to be interested in insurance," he added.
By contrast, Burns is passionate about the opportunities he sees for serving the global insurance industry in coverage disputes and other matters. "It's a huge, huge industry with $13 trillion in assets under management. Insurers are doing business all around the world and expanding into new markets in Asia and Latin America," he said.
Burns explained that insurers have replaced banks in providing financing in many emerging global markets, particularly in the wake of the financial crisis when financing from traditional lenders grew tight.
Clyde & Co. has expanded aggressively into emerging markets. It was the first international firm to open an office in Tripoli, Libya, after Moammar Gaddafi's overthrow, according to The Lawyer. That office launched in August 2012.
The firm entered the Australian market in October with offices in Sydney and Perth. It announced a new Madrid office in April, launched with insurance partners from DAC Beachcroft, followed by a Beijing office in May.
"Atlanta is a very exciting opportunity for us," said Burns, adding that many of the firm's insurer clients have offices here and that the Robins Kaplan lawyers' clients overlap with those of the firm.
Fisher said his clients include a mix of U.S. and international insurers, including Ace, Allianz, Swiss Re, FM Global, Liberty Mutual and London-based syndicates.
Burns said Fisher and Chin, who handle property and liability matters for insurers, add expertise in property coverage disputes to the insurance areas that Clyde & Co. handles in the U.S., which include directors and officers, complex coverage, marine, energy, professional liability and cyber and data breach.
"What we didn't have was first-party property. When a storm blows, there is a huge amount of work generated for first-party property work and in the Southeast there are substantial weather-related catastrophes," he said, adding that Fisher and Chin are currently handling matters for insurers arising from Superstorm Sandy.
Fisher, who'd spent his entire career at Robins Kaplan, said he decided to join Clyde & Co. following his introduction to Burns. "The breadth of the firm's insurance practice as well as its overall commitment to that line of business is what drew me to the firm," he said.
Chin said it was an opportunity he could not pass up after 17 years at Robins Kaplan. "Clydes is a leading global law firm in which my practice, insurance, is one of the core practices," he said, noting that the firm handles matters across all lines of insurance. "It is a tremendous platform for our business and clients."
From talking to Burns and others at Clyde & Co., Fisher said he learned the firm wants to grow its insurance practice substantially across the globe. "It was an opportunity I just couldn't turn down."
"The coverage is extraordinary. It provides James and I phenomenal opportunities for maintaining our business and building on their platform. That's what I'm so excited about," Fisher said.
When Fisher joined Robins Kaplan in 1982, he said, insurance was one of the litigation firm's primary practices. "It still is what I could consider to be a core practice, but I think the firm's direction, to some extent, has moved it toward such things as antitrust, class-action work and intellectual property work," he said.
Robins Kaplan, based in Minneapolis, has six offices with about 230 lawyers. The departures for Clyde & Co. leave 14 lawyers in the Atlanta office, which opened in 1978.
The firm's Atlanta managing partner, V. Robert Denham Jr., wished them well. "You hate to lose partners, but it sounds like a good opportunity for them."
Denham said Robins Kaplan wants to expand the local office and that he is "actively looking" to add partners in business and IP litigation. He said the firm still has an insurance practice in Atlanta, headed by William Stanhope, and a large insurance practice firmwide.
Burns said Clyde & Co. plans to broaden the insurance practice in Atlanta and add capabilities in other key sectors such as energy.
"We're not going to grow for the sake of growth," Fisher said. "But the firm did not open an office here to have just two partners. They made that very clear to us."
Fisher said his rates will remain commensurate with his client relationships.
Clyde & Co. wants to handle all work for its insurer clients "from top to bottom," Burns said, which means "being flexible on pricing."
"We recognize that our insurer clients need help with a variety of different business lines, so as a law firm, we need to sell to them effectively different products at different prices," he said.
Burns said adding lawyers in Atlanta gives Clyde & Co. more rate flexibility in the U.S. "You can control costs in a city like Atlanta that you couldn't in a city like Manhattan."
Clyde & Co. is currently located in temporary space at Colony Square while it lines up a permanent location.