Weightmans has hired Edwards Wildman Palmer partner Francis Mackie in a bid to transform its insurance practice.
Mackie has been hired to grow Weightmans’ London market capabilities. His appointment is the first step in a strategic effort by Weightmans to develop its insurance capabilities and create a practice which is able to advise clients on all areas of insurance law.
The firm already has a strong national insurance team advising on a range of areas, notably acting for insurers on personal injury, product liability, motor claims and marine issues.
Director of insurance Kieran Jones said the firm was now targeting a greater breadth of work, particularly in contentious and non-contentious London market and Lloyd’s insurance.
“We’re intent on growing our London insurance practice,” Jones told The Lawyer. “We’re known as a national insurance player and to continue to be a national insurance player we need access to the Lloyd’s market and the London market. We want to be a true insurance firm and that means providing full insurance provision to the full insurance market.”
The strategy could see Weightmans’ London-based insurance team moving closer to the market hub in EC3, with space now at a premium in the firm’s Holborn offices.
Weightmans has a small existing London market team, with partners such as Colin Peck and Ling Ong advising on contentious reinsurance matters and other insurance-related litigation.
However Mackie brings a wider range of experience in the market. He joined Edwards Wildman legacy firm Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge in 2010 from Dewey & LeBoeuf (26 April 2010). He was previously a partner at legacy Norton Rose and acts mainly for London market syndicates and companies and international insurance clients, advising on litigation and arbitration across a range of areas.
His appointment is expected to be followed by the recruitment of a team of associates to support the London market work, and further partner hires could also be in the pipeline.
Jones insisted the hire was not a signal that Weightmans was turning its back on its national presence, and said further appointments would be made around the country. He pointed to Scotland as a region of focus, following the firm’s Glasgow launch with a construction team from collapsed firm Semple Fraser (11 March 2013).
He added that it was “shop window time” for the firm as it set out its stall to broaden the services it provides to the market.
“We’re not trying to make a special case for London – it’s part of our national and international growth plans,” Jones said.
Mackie’s hire continues the firm’s efforts to diversify its insurance practice, following last year’s introduction of a ‘solving disputes’ team to handle claims valued at less than £25,000 (29 April 2013).
The investment in the London office and the wider practice follows a solid financial year for Weightmans, which reported turnover growth of 6 per cent last year (7 May 2014).