Steptoe launches in Chicago with pre-merger swoop

Washington DC firm Steptoe & Johnson is the latest US firm to enter the Chicago market, launching an office there today by taking nine partners from local firm Gardner Carton & Douglas ahead of its merger with Philadelphia-headquartered Drinker Biddle & Reath, also effective today.

Steptoe has lured litigation partners Christopher Barber and Stephen O’Donnell from Gardner Carton, as well as seven other commercial litigation partners. In total, Steptoe is poaching 20 lawyers and staff from Gardner Carton before its merger with Drinker Biddle.

Barber and O’Donnell have particular experience in insurance litigation, for which Chicago is a hub. Steptoe wants to generally grow its litigation footprint across the US.

The firm’s head of litigation, Steve Fennell said: “This group is a strong match with our firm on several levels given the cases we both handle and the clients we both represent. The move is consistent with our plan to continue our growth where we find the highest calibre lawyers.”

With Chicago, the firm wants to leverage off its London office to offer a transatlantic team in insurance and insurance litigation.

Chicago is Steptoe’s seventh office and will be headed by litigation partner Steven Davidson and employment partner Paul Mickey, both currently based in the DC office. In July, the 450-lawyer firm opened a California office in Century City.

Steptoe is just the latest of a spate of firms rushing to enter the Chicago market. In recent months, Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker and Reed Smith have opened offices there.