Byrne in the USA: Lovells widens insurance net

Chicago office gets creative to target brokers

The managing partner of Lovells’ Chicago office is vowing to continue his firm’s recent local expansion by launching a brokers’ side insurance and reinsurance practice in the New Year.

Lovells already handles work for brokers in London but has steered away from the area in Chicago for fear of creating conflicts.

David Linder, managing partner of Lovells’ Chicago office since 1 January 2007, says: “Insurance is a vast industry but a small community, so you need to choose carefully who you work for. Even the largest institutions can say ‘you’re either for us or against us’.”

The firm’s attitude has changed in recent months, however. Now Linder describes it as “a gaping hole” in Lovells’ US practice. “We need to be more creative,” he adds. “Right now, broker work in Lovells Chicago is very much nascent. It’s at the planning and development stage.”

Lovells will begin targeting general commercial litigation for brokers, such as contractual or tort claims, rather than insurance-related disputes. It believes this is unlikely to create any conflicts in the way it might if the firm were to represent a broker suing a major insurance company on an insurance-related matter.

Linder says Lovells is looking to expand its presence in the US significantly. “It is certainly our intention to be more aggressive now and look at other practice areas,” he says. “We’re talking to a lot of folks in this market right now, individuals and groups of 10 to 15 lawyers.”

Lovells has 11 partners in Chicago and about 30 lawyers, the majority of whom are focused on insurance and reinsurance litigation. Linder is targeting up to 50 lawyers within 12 months or less and has begun exploring opportunities to import areas that Lovells practices elsewhere in its network. Topping the list is a brokers’ side insurance and reinsurance practice.

The firm has already expanded in the US this year with a succession of lateral hires. It made its first foray into IP in the US with Mark Halligan from IP boutique Welsh & Katz, followed in New York by the hires of patent litigators Veronica Mullally and David Leichtman.

No end to public prosecutors’ popularity

Despite murmurings that demand from firms for former public prosecution lawyers is tailing off, there is still no sign of it happening.

The highest-profile move recently is Peter Bresnan, former deputy director of the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) enforcement division, who is joining Simpson Thacher & Bartlett as a partner in January.

Bresnan follows former assistant to the solicitor general of the US, David Salmons, who joined Bingham McCutchen in DC on 3 December. He is one of six lawyers who have left his former 15-lawyer team for the private sector recently, an unprecedented turnover.

In the same week, Allen & Overy (A&O) highlighted the credentials of one of its recent public prosecutor hires by announcing that litigator Pat Hynes has been nominated as president of the New York City Bar Association. Last month, A&O also hired former US attorney David Esseks.

Top Wall Street fraud litigator, Sullivan & Cromwell partner Sam Seymour, says white collar crime is now a staple at the top US firms.

“It has been said that there has been a diminution in the appeal of these lawyers after the ending of major fraud investigations such as Enron and WorldCom, and the exit of former attorney general Elliot Spitzer, but I don’t see that,” he adds. “I don’t fall into the ‘pendulum is swinging’ argument. Competition is still robust and clients really take comfort when their counsel is a former public prosecutor.”

All of the UK magic circle firms have former public prosecutors in their US litigation teams. As Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner MJ Moltenbrey says: “A good way to establish credibility is to hire people who have worked at the very highest level.”

Former public prosecutors at the uk magic circle

Clifford Chance
– John Carroll: Chief of Securities and Commodities Fraud Task Force
– Joel Cohen: Assistant US Attorney, Eastern District, New York
– Wendy Wysong: Deputy Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement
– David Meister: Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, New York
– George Schieren: Chief of Branch Enforcement, SEC, New York
– Mark Kirsch: Assistant US Attorney, Eastern District, New York

Allen & Overy
– Michael Feldberg: Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, New York
– Pamela Chepiga: Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, New York
– David Esseks: Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, New York
– Pat Hynes: Assistant US Attorney, Southern District, New York
– Bob Knuts: Supervisor, SEC Enforcement Division

Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer
– Paul Yde: Counsel to two Federal Trade Commissioners
– Terry Calvani: US Federal Trade Commissioner
– MJ Moltenbrey: Director of Civil Non-merger Enforcement, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division

– Lawrence Byrne: Deputy Chief, Organised Crime and Racketeering, Criminal Division, Department of Justice
– Joseph Armao: Prosecutor, New York County DA’s Office

From earlier Byrne in the USA blogs on The…

Fight for the right party
This was a tale of two bashes.

Mourant du Feu & Jeune made legal history by becoming the first offshore firm to open in New York. This week it also made the schoolboy error of hosting its Christmas party next door to that of another, significantly larger, and entirely unrelated, outfit. Same floor, same cloakroom, different party.

The only clue to the difference between the assembled groups of suits was the river of alcohol being consumed at the Mourant party. As we all know, it’s tough offshore and only a barrel-load of vodka can assuage the pain of working in Cayman or Bermuda.

Heading the crew was chief exec Stephen ‘on the’ Ball.

Shame about the two parties then. Eventually the guests who’d wandered into the wrong party realised their mistake and sidled into Mourant’s rave.

And yes, they included yours truly. It was deliberate to practise my gatecrashing skills. Honest.

– Posted 14 December

Top Trump
At the British-American Business Council’s Chicago bash this month, Larry Swibel at Chicago’s Fox Hefter Swibel Levin & Carroll told a story about Mr Iron Hair, Donald Trump.

Trump and Swibel were battling over a real estate deal earlier this year. Days before the deal closed Trump made an appearance.

As Trump entered the meeting he barked: “I know you. You’re an aggressive shark.” Swibel, who had never before met Trump, managed a: “Good to meet you,” and the meeting began.

The next day one clause still needed ironing out. Swibel told Trump’s lawyers the deal couldn’t progress until Trump had okayed it.

“We’ll call him,” they said.

Five minutes later they were back.

“Did you tell Donald about the clause?” asked Swibel.

“We did.” “What did he say?” The lawyers paused. And then told him. Let’s just say, it rhymes with ‘duck poo’.

– Posted: 10 December

To read Matt’s earlier ‘Byrne in the USA’ blogs, click here.