Getting ready for the bad times?

It might seem perverse. Right in the middle of the biggest bull market in years, Clifford Chance and US firm Bingham Dana are setting up trans-atlantic insolvency and restructuring practices.

They are not the first. The much-maligned Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft first had the idea when it hired Andrew Wilkinson from Clifford Chance back in 1997, and has carved out a useful little niche on distressed turnarounds in the financial markets. Wilkinson's package of over £1m shows that he is being amply rewarded for it.

And so despite the recent turmoil in Cadwalader's London office, it is clear that Wilkinson's old firm Clifford Chance and his former Cadwalader colleague James Roome see virtues in this approach. Certainly, Bingham Dana's US hires of Brozman and Gitlin provide an impressive launch pad for its new London practice.

So where is the competition? Allen & Overy has missed a trick on the US side, having focused on Europe and Asia. Lovells has built up a US/UK insurance capability and could therefore focus on insurance insolvency, but there have been precious few collapses in that sector in recent times.

So for the moment the field is still comfortably small, no doubt to Bingham Dana's relief. But the challenge for any firm putting together a top-level transatlantic insolvency capability is finding the assistants to support them. Most assistants would rather take their chances in overworked corporate departments.

Bingham Dana may have set up the most credible transatlantic practice yet, but even it may find staffing it tough going.