All eight lawyers from Houston firm Bell, Ryniker & Letourneau joined Blank Rome’s Houston office Aug. 1, expanding the firm’s maritime and energy practices in Texas.

“We see it as a great opportunity to both assist our existing clients with more capacity and to be able to access clients of the firm in the Texas and Gulf Coast area,” says Michael Bell, who joined Blank Rome as a partner.

Keith Letourneau and Douglas Shoemaker also joined as partners. Robert Ryniker and James Arnold joined as counsel and Mitchell Machann, Tracy Freeman and David Meyer are now Blank Rome associates. Blank Rome now has 20 lawyers in Houston.

Alan Hoffman, co-chairman and managing partner of 500-lawyer Blank Rome, says the firm has one of the largest maritime practices in the country and it makes sense to add maritime lawyers to the Houston office. Philadelphia-based Blank Rome opened its Houston office in May 2010 with one litigator, but expanded it on June 30, 2011 when it merged with Houston litigation boutique Abrams Scott & Bickley and picked up 10 lawyers.

“One of the reasons we opened in Houston and combined with the Abraham Scott firm . . . two years ago now was not only because of litigation needs, but we had a number of maritime clients who needed us to have a Houston office. In addition to having a Houston office, it became important to have lawyers on the ground in Houston to handle their matters,” Hoffman says.

Bell says he and others from Bell Ryniker have known lawyers in the Blank Rome maritime group working in Washington, D.C. and New York City for years.

“We have a great working relationship and a lot of respect for them and discussions just happened naturally,” Bell says.

Bell says his group’s clients include Chevron Shipping Co., Valero Energy Corp. and a number of maritime insurance companies including Starr Marine. In addition to maritime and energy work, the lawyers from Bell Ryniker do insurance, transportation, government contracts and construction work.

Besides its Houston office, Blank Rome has offices in Boca Raton, Fla., Cincinnati, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, Princeton, N.J., Tampa, Washington, D.C., Wilmington, Del., and Shanghai.