Insurance and financial institutions litigator James Jorden is leading a team of 14 partners from Carlton Fields, where he had been a name partner, to Philadelphia-based Drinker Biddle & Reath.
The move expands Drinker Biddle’s Washington, D.C., office, gives the firm a new outpost in Hartford, Connecticut, and paves the way for a new Miami location as well.
Jorden’s 70-lawyer firm, Jorden Burt, merged with Tampa-based Carlton Fields in 2014, and the firm formally became Carlton Fields Jorden Burt. Carlton Fields dropped Jorden Burt from its name Feb. 28.
Washington-based Jorden and the partners moving with him have all worked together for at least 10 years, he said, and most of them have been working together for 15 to 20 years.
Jorden said his group was seeking ”as broad a national platform as possible” for their litigation and class actions practice, in which they represent financial institutions, life insurance, mutual funds, investment firms and banks. He said they were also drawn to Drinker Biddle’s capital markets, Employee Retirement Income Security Act, securities, funds and life insurance work.
“We as a group have always believed you grow or you die,” Jorden said. “We’re constantly thinking about where do we need to go, and how do we get there?”
Moving with Jorden in Washington are partners Frank Burt, Josephine Cicchetti, Roland Goss, W. Glenn Merten, Shaunda Patterson-Strachan, Brian Perryman, Waldemar Pflepsen Jr., Kristen Reilly, Kristin Ann Shepard and Dawn B. Williams, as well as three associates.
In Hartford, partners Stephen Jorden, Ben Seessel and Michael Valerio will be partners, with Stephen Jorden serving as regional partner in charge for that office.
“It’s not every day that we add a group of practitioners that are so nationally recognized,” Drinker Biddle chairman Andrew Kassner said in an interview Wednesday.
Additionally, the firm said, there may be more lawyers from Carlton Fields joining Drinker, and Drinker is planning to open an office in Miami in the near future to accommodate James Jorden’s group.
Kassner said insurance and financial services are core sectors for Drinker, and expanding in those industries allows the firm to differentiate itself. Jorden’s group has some clients in common with Drinker Biddle already, and will be bringing some new ones as well, Kassner said.
Jorden declined to name his group’s clients. According to federal court records, in recent years he has represented Genworth Life Insurance Co. of New York, Market Synergy Group Inc., Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America and Voya Financial Inc.
“The one thing we continue to see is clients looking for law firms that are not only good technical lawyers, but actually know their business, know their sector well, and can see them through the changes and disruption,” Kassner said. That means having lawyers who can handle not just litigation, but business transactions and regulatory matters as well, he explained.
Last year, Drinker Biddle lost a sizeable class action group in Philadelphia and Los Angeles, which joined Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld. Kassner said bringing on Jorden’s group was in the works for about a year, and it was not a reaction to that loss.
Kassner said Drinker Biddle has had an eye on the Southeast, and clients have particularly noted the importance of South Florida as a litigation center. While Hartford is a major insurance hub, he said, opening an office there was driven more by the ability to acquire the partners there from Jorden’s group than it was about geographic expansion.
In a statement Wednesday, Carlton Fields partners Ann Black and Markham Leventhal, who co-lead the firm’s financial services industry group, said the firm wishes the departing group continued success.
“Carlton Fields continues to have a very deep bench in class action and insurance litigation, of course,” they said. “We are retaining all of our extraordinary financial services regulatory and transactional attorneys, and we will not miss a beat in terms of our ability to meet the needs of our financial services clients and this industry sector. We are very well positioned to grow this group in both its depth and its breadth.”
When Carlton Fields and Jorden Burt merged, the combined firm’s revenue increased by $45 million compared with Carlton Fields’ individual revenue from the year before. The two firms were well matched in terms of profits per equity partner.
But, The American Lawyer reported in 2015, a source with inside knowledge of the merger said the combined firm saw its profit margin shrink because of the addition of Jorden Burt’s lower-rate insurance practice in Connecticut and Washington.