Pittsburgh. Photo: Shutterstock.com

Kazmarek Mowrey Cloud Laseter is breaking out of the South and entering the Pittsburgh legal market, hiring partner Paul Stockman from McGuireWoods.

Stockman joined the 18-lawyer environmental and energy boutique on Wednesday. Most of the firm’s lawyers are located in Atlanta, but it also has a three-attorney office in Birmingham, Alabama, which opened in 2016.

Kazmarek Mowrey founding partner Bob Mowrey touted the move in an interview Thursday, noting Pittsburgh’s “manufacturing heritage” and the growth of the energy industry there thanks to fracking and shale. “That entire part of the country from an environmental lawyer’s point of view is an attractive part of the world,” Mowrey said.

Stockman joined McGuireWoods‘ commercial litigation department in 2012, and was a partner at K&L Gates before that. His practice focuses on energy, environmental, insurance coverage and toxic tort disputes in federal and state trial and appellate courts.

Paul Stockman.

I was looking for a place where there was a smaller conflict footprint, where I could help grow an office, help grow a practice, be on the ground floor of something,” Stockman said. “The boutique model with lower overhead really allows us to be creative in how we structure our relationships, and the market really demands that these days.”

Mowrey said many of Kazmarek Mowrey’s lawyers have come from larger firms. He and the other founders left Alston & Bird to form the boutique. And the founders of the Birmingham office came from Maynard Cooper & Gale, which has about 250 lawyers.

Stockman got connected to the firm through partner Doug Cloud, he said. Mowrey said Stockman’s practice and client mix made him a natural choice for starting a Pittsburgh office.

“Paul’s set of clients is impressive. That’s self-credentialing in a way,” Mowrey said. “You don’t find that many environmental trial lawyers to be perfectly honest, and when you do, from my experience … you want to make a match.”

Stockman acknowledged that the energy industry in western Pennsylvania has undergone some evolution since 2010, when law firms and other businesses were flocking to the area for their share of the Marcellus Shale action. Falling energy prices in 2015 weeded out some lawyers who had built practices on the blossoming energy industry in Pennsylvania, but diversified practices survived.

“We have seen a shakeout in the market as it’s matured, but it remains a promising area,” he said.

In particular, Stockman noted regulatory changes and rulings from the Pennsylvania Supreme Court that have created more opportunity for energy law practices recently, including changes to the state’s oil and gas regulations, and a decision interpreting the Environmental Rights Amendment.

The ongoing developments in case law have “the potential to cause an explosion of litigation,” Stockman said. “Sitting in Pittsburgh we’re at ground zero to see how that builds out.”

In a statement, Cheryl Haas, chair of McGuireWoods’ complex commercial litigation department, said the firm thanks Stockman for his contributions and wishes him well.