New Jersey lawyers from Clyde & Co., seeking a firm more bent on trial practice, have moved to LeClairRyan.

The 10-attorney decampment, effective Jan. 1, brings the head count to 57 at LeClair’s Newark office and bolsters the litigation practice there.

“This certainly plays well with our strategy of leveraging our geographic reach and talent,” says LeClair CEO David Freinberg.

LeClair says the group collectively has handled about 100 trials and focuses on insurance defense litigation, including products liability and toxic torts.

Those talents are well-suited to LeClair, where litigation accounts for about 70 percent of the firmwide practice, and 60 percent of the New Jersey practice, Freinberg says.

Jeffrey O’Hara, the group leader, arrived at Clyde three-and-a-half years ago and was able to grow the trial practice to some extent, though the firm still has far fewer U.S. offices than LeClair and devotes much of its practice to coverage and regulatory matters.

“The hope was that it would grow as the firm grew,” O’Hara says. “It was just a better fit, for the work my team does, within the footprint of LeClair.”

O’Hara joins LeClair as a partner, as do Matthew Bauer, Bryan Couch and Matthew Schultz. The contingent also includes associates Catherine Bryan, Patrick During, Laura Fedyna, Kelly Krug, Bathiya Sheriffdeen and Justin Vogel. Two paralegals, two staffers and a law clerk are also coming along.

O’Hara says the “single best characteristic” about LeClair is “the quality trial support that exists in the offices outside New Jersey,” which “gives us unlimited potential to handle claims with resources that are at our fingertips”—22 offices across 10 states and the District of Columbia.

That will allow attorneys to take on trials in other jurisdictions without having to hire local counsel, which provides “a much greater comfort level with the quality of [the] expertise,” O’Hara says.

From LeClair’s perspective, it means increased revenues, says Freinberg. “I’m pretty comfortable saying that one plus one is going to make something far greater than two,” he says.

O’Hara’s relationship with LeClair attorneys goes back to his 17 years at Connell Foley in Roseland, where he began his career in 1993. Back then, he knew lawyers from Newark’s Robinson, St. John & Wayne. LeClair was still years away from the move that would establish its New Jersey presence—the 2008 merger with Seiden Wayne, a derivative of the Robinson firm.

The relationship carried over the years, and for the past decade O’Hara’s group and LeClair have worked together representing many of the same clients.

O’Hara says no other destinations than LeClair were considered. “This was not a circumstance where our team was put on the auction block and we waited for suitors,” he says. “There are lots of law firms out there that would be interested in the breadth that our team has. But that’s not what this was about.”

O’Hara won’t name the clients in tow but says they include Fortune 100 companies in consumer products, transportation and retail. In recent years, he has represented Target and T.G.I. Friday’s in litigation.

The group’s departure to LeClair leaves Clyde’s New Jersey office, in Florham Park, with 13 attorneys.

But Daren McNally, managing partner of the office, points out that Clyde’s New Jersey operation has grown in recent years, acquiring three lawyers from New York’s Mendes & Mount and Kevin Haas from Cozen O’Connor in Newark.

“We’re going to likely both grow organically as well as acquire other practice groups,” says McNally, who called O’Hara’s departure “a very amicable split.”

London-based Clyde—with upward of 1,400 lawyers in 35 offices worldwide—has been in expansion mode elsewhere.

In the past two years, the firm expanded its office in Perth, Australia; opened its fourth U.S. office, in Atlanta with three attorneys from Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; announced a new Beijing office, and expanded its San Francisco office with four lawyers from Tucker, Ellis & West.

Clyde opened its first overseas office in Hong Kong in 1981 and its first U.S. office in New York in 2006. It has formed partnerships with firms in Singapore, China and Indonesia.

LeClair, too, has been growing. It now has 343 lawyers, according to its website—a considerable spike from the 215 head count as of the Seiden Wayne merger six years ago.

Most recently, LeClair acquired Adelman, Sheff & Smith—an 11-lawyer Annapolis, Md.-based health-care boutique—in October, and also took on a corporate services practice from Epstein Becker & Green in May 2012.■