Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti became the first New Jersey firm to open a London office when it launched in the City a fortnight ago.
The opening saw Riker Danzig take the general counsel from one of its best clients to become the firm’s first English law partner.
The firm’s co-chair and head of the insurance department Shawn Kelly said the firm’s approach was “conservative, but more palatable to my partners”.
“We have clients in London who would like us to be there,” said Kelly. “When you have a client who says ‘we like you and your work and if you come to London we’ve got plenty of work for you’, it’s difficult to turn the opportunity down.”
The firm has also grown its New York presence, with 15 attorneys now in its Manhattan office.
“The firm is growing fairly steadily and we expect London to help with that growth,” said Kelly. “We expect to develop new business in London, not just serve our existing clients.”
The firm has a 130-year history in New Jersey and has signed a five-year lease for its London office, with room for six attorneys.
“Lots of US firms have mail-drop offices in London, but I don’t believe that works,” said Kelly. “We’ll start with two full-time attorneys and rotate others through from New Jersey. I expect we’ll have four or five full time by the end of the year.”
The firm’s largest office is its Morristown headquarters. It keeps a presence in Trenton, New Jersey’s capital, for connections to the state government.
“Trenton is a bit of a funny situation for us. We do all of our regulatory work with the state government, but it is kind of a stand-alone operation for us,” said Kelly.
“But it’s useful to have a space to meet when you’re working up in the state capital.”
The firm installed a dual chairman arrangement in 2003 with Kelly sharing the role with Gerald Liloia, who also heads the firm’s litigation function.
“Gerry traditionally had been the chair, but we decided to split the post for a couple of reasons. One, I’m a bit younger than Gerry, and secondly, my practice [insurance] has just exploded for the firm in terms of business coming in.”
As chairmen of the firm and heads of a five-member executive committee, Liloia and Kelly make the strategic decisions, while the firm also has managing partner in Glenn Clark, who has held the position since 1996.
Firm: Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti
Turnover: $65m (£35.33m)
Total number of partners: 47
Total number of fee-earners: 163
Main practice areas: Litigation, insurance, corporate, bankruptcy, employment, real estate
Key clients: Castlewood Insurance, American Centennial Insurance, AT&T, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorgan Chase, Merrill Lynch
Number of offices: Four
Locations: Morristown, Trenton, New York, London