After leasing space in Houston last month and working the lateral market, Reed Smith has announced it will officially open its first Texas office with 17 attorneys from seven different area firms.

Reed Smith spent several years looking for a merger partner in Houston — its typical expansion strategy — but after not finding the right fit and not wanting to wait any longer, the firm decided to look to the lateral market.

While many Am Law firms have launched in Houston with a handful of attorneys, Reed Smith held off on announcing hires until it had the critical mass it was looking for.

As Reed Smith has traditionally done when opening in a new market, the firm has sent an existing partner to live in Houston and help integrate the new location into the firm. Energy and real estate attorney David Thompson, the former head of Reed Smith’s San Francisco office, has moved to Houston and is serving as the integration partner in the office.

Along with Thompson, 12 partners, three counsel and one associate have joined Reed Smith in Houston.

Global Managing Partner Gregory B. Jordan said there are associates who are expected to follow this group and the firm is also in discussions with a second wave of partners who are currently going through conflict checks. Reed Smith has a full floor available in its new location that can house between 37 and 40 lawyers and Jordan said he would expect that to be full by mid-year. The firm also has taken rights to another floor in the building that would allow it to house a total of 80 lawyers over the next year, and it has option rights to half of another floor.

While Reed Smith’s energy practice — the fastest-growing in the firm — was a big driver for its move into Houston, the firm has launched with attorneys in a number of its core practice and industry sectors. The Houston office will have energy, life sciences, litigation, financial and labor and employment attorneys.

Jordan said hiring attorneys from seven different firms definitely made the process more complicated. But he said it was deliberately so.

"We didn’t want the office to be a spin-off office of any given firm," Jordan said.

Reed Smith was looking to hire the top talent in the core practice areas of the firm, he said. And the battle for talent is strong.

"It’s the hottest lateral market in the world as far as I can tell," Jordan said of Houston.

He said there are more out-of-town firms flooding into the market than any other he was aware of. Jordan said he thinks lateral partners are making their decisions based on the strength and strategy of the firms entering Houston.

Six partners are joining Reed Smith’s Houston office in the energy practice: E. Lee Haag and Chris Watt from Fulbright & Jaworski; Paul B. Turner, formerly of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan; Craig R. Enochs and Daniel Nossa from Jackson Walker; and Charles "Stan" Perry from Haynes & Boone.

Kenneth E. Broughton and Francisco Rivero, both formerly of Haynes & Boone, have joined Reed Smith’s U.S. commercial litigation practice. Stephen E. Scheve, formerly of Baker Botts, joined Reed Smith’s life sciences health industry group.

Wanda G. Holloway joined the labor and employment practice from Seyfarth Shaw; Carol M. Burke, formerly with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, joined Reed Smith’s financial industry group; and Robert R. Riddle joined the firm’s IP practice from Baker Botts.

Paul W. Bishop of Sutherland Asbill & Brennan has joined Reed Smith’s corporate and securities practice as counsel. Rhonda R. Caviedes has joined the energy practice as counsel and Kevin M. Page has joined as an associate. Fazila Issa has joined the labor and employment practice as counsel.

—Read more about it in Wednesday’s Legal.