James Grogan has left Paul Hastings for Blank Rome in Houston, where he plans to build up a bankruptcy and restructuring practice.

“I am looking to add people and hope to grow the group,” said Grogan, who spent more than nine years with Paul Hastings in Houston and New York. He is licensed in both states.

“This is a growing office here in Houston. It’s got a great practice mix for the Houston market. It’s got a very favorable rate structure that’s going to be attractive to potential clients in Texas,” said Grogan, whose first day at Blank Rome was Sept. 10.

Grogan does Chapter 11 bankruptcy litigation, representing debtors, lenders and committees of unsecured creditors. He’s done a considerable amount of work lately on energy sector restructurings, but over the last 20 years has worked in the automotive, telecom, manufacturing, entertainment, financial services and retail industries. He also handles cross-border restructurings.

Grogan notes that while the rising price of oil has improved the financial condition of some companies in the energy industry, it’s “still an area of some distress.” He said some energy companies that have survived the recent downturn are still evaluating if they need to use Chapter 11 to reorganize.

In terms of new distress, Grogan said the retail industry is a significant part of the bankruptcy market, pointing to companies such as Toys R Us, which filed for bankruptcy in 2017, but also at much smaller retailers. “It’s caused by rising rents, competition from online sources and just being over-leveraged, rapid expansion using bank debt,” he said.

Regina Stango Kelbon, a partner in Wilmington, Delaware, and Philadelphia who is co-chairwoman of Blank Rome’s finance, restructuring and bankruptcy group, said in a statement that her group is excited to welcome Grogan to the firm.

“With the recent wave of restructuring activity in the Houston market, combined with the cyclical nature of bankruptcy within various industries, James could not be joining us at a better time,” Kelbon wrote.

Blank Rome moved into the Houston office in 2010 with a single lawyer but established a large foothold in 2011 when it merged with Houston litigation boutique Abrams Scott & Bickley.

Paul Hastings commented on Grogan’s departure, saying “the firm wishes James all the best for the future.”

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