Arising four decades ago in response to the onslaught of asbestos-related cases, Reed Smith’s insurance recovery department adapts to the litigation landscape.

When the subprime mortgage market imploded a few years ago, Reed Smith was able to quickly respond by mobilizing a team that had a background and expertise in the financial sector, said Douglas Cameron, head of the department. From that grew a specialty group.

The way the firm is built allows it to call on various specialty areas when they’re needed, in terms of both geographic positioning and depth. Reed Smith has a very deep bench.

Over the last decade it has expanded significantly, Cameron said. The insurance recovery department went from about a dozen attorneys to more than 70.

While Reed Smith has always worked on the policyholder side, the firm’s 2006 merger with Chicago’s Sachnoff & Weaver cemented its commitment to policyholder representation, Cameron said.

“We always had the focus,” Cameron said, but that merger doubled the size of the department and set the firm’s concentration. “The firm made the decision to go all in on the policyholder side.”

Since then, Reed Smith has looked for strategic growth opportunities to bolster its policyholder representation, Cameron said, and it has now become one of the firm’s larger specialty groups.

From long-tail asbestos cases to complex mortgage disputes, Reed Smith represents all aspects of insurance recovery litigation.

The firm can also work with clients on the front end, Cameron said, in negotiating contracts and annual renewals with insurers.

U.S. Steel has been a client from the beginning, with James Reed representing Andrew Carnegie, a founding father of U.S. Steel, at the incorporation of the company in 1901.

More than a century later, in 2011, Reed Smith represented U.S. Steel in claims made by CAN Insurance related to explosions at the company’s Clairton plant near Pittsburgh. The steel company had been sued by employees of a contractor doing work at the site and then sought coverage under the contractor’s liability insurance as an additional insured. The insurance company denied coverage, citing its employer’s liability exclusion, so that U.S. Steel would be barred from the $16 million of limits collectively available under its policy, according to the firm.

The trial court agreed with U.S. Steel that the employer’s liability exclusion did not bar coverage for bodily injury and wrongful death claims.

Reed Smith’s insurance recovery department has also taken on a fair amount of pro bono cases, notably representing Philadelphia’s Germantown YMCA, which was closed for two years following severe flooding of the four-story building in an under-served area of the city.

After multiple disputes, Jay Levin of the firm’s Philadelphia office settled the case in 2011. He and his team got the YMCA $200,000, which was enough to reopen the facility.

Having a national and international presence, Reed Smith has insurance recovery attorneys across the country and in Europe, with 21 lawyers in Pennsylvania. Cameron is based in Pittsburgh.

“Our Pennsylvania insurance attorneys possess broad expertise in the most important insurance issues facing policyholders today and have recovered billions of dollars of insurance policy proceeds through negotiation, mediation, arbitration and litigation,” the firm said.

Reed Smith has helped to shape insurance jurisprudence in Pennsylvania through its representation of its clients and United Policyholders, a charity that supports policyholders.

“Our lawyers have participated in virtually all of the major insurance coverage cases in Pennsylvania that have protected the rights of policyholders,” the firm said. Also, attorneys from the firm regularly speak and write about insurance in order to educate policyholders about their rights.

“I’m continually amazed at how knowledgeable and experienced our people are,” Cameron said. They are “truly, truly at the top of the profession.”