Herbert Smith prepares for September launch in NYC

Herbert Smith is set to launch in New York in September as the firm prepares to vote on lateral hires for the new office in the coming weeks.

The firm had been looking at a July launch for the new office but has pushed that back in order to get the summer holidays out of the way first. The firm has already taken on some service accommodation and is now negotiating a lease for its office.

London-based international arbitration partner Chris Parker is set to permanently relocate to New York for the launch and partners at Herbert Smith will vote in the coming weeks on the proposed incoming lateral hires that will staff the office.

The new office will provide litigation advice for the firm’s existing network clients and for US clients that want to instruct Herbert Smith in other jurisdictions. Dispute resolution partner Tony Dempster said that the firm has no plans to stray into corporate work in New York or to take on the top Wall Street firms on their own turf by targeting the same clients. Herbert Smith has referral relationships with a number of top New York firms, like Cravath Swaine & Moore and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

“The office will be very much disputes focused with three elements,” said Dempster. “The first is international arbitration: Chris Parker is moving across from the London office and we’re also in discussions with another lateral hire. The second area is investigations and we’re in discussions with a number of laterals there, and the third is cross-border litigation.”

The decision to launch in New York was announced to partners at a meeting in September and was part of Project Blue Sky – the firm’s blueprint for internationalisation (2 January 2012). According to Dempster the decision to launch in the US also got buy-in from the firm’s Australian merger partner Freehills.

New York is just the first of Herbert Smith’s proposed international launches under Project Blue Sky, with new offices in Korea and Guinea (21 May 2012) expected later in the year and Germany on the cards for 2013 (10 February 2012).

On 28 June Herbert Smith announced that its partners had voted in favour of a full financial merger with Australian firm Freehills (28 June 2012).