Pittsburgh firm set to pioneer move into Birmingham market

Pittsburgh-based Reed Smith Shaw & McClay is set to become the first US firm to open in Birmingham.

The firm says it is in talks with both Pinsent Curtis and Eversheds to form a strategic alliance.

It will be along the lines of Titmuss Sainer Dechert's arrangement with US firm Dechert Price and Rhoads.

Peter Tucci, head of Reed Smith's international practice group, says the firm has been in talks with Pinsent Curtis and Eversheds discussing a joint venture that would see it share resources with one of the firms.

He says the arrangement would start with sharing office space and lawyers, but could lead to a full merger.

“We could help the UK firm and its clients in the US, and it might be helpful for them to have on-site US capability, just as it might be helpful for us to have English capability,” he says.

Reed Smith is also looking for a London partner, and Tucci says the firm may share space with its Birmingham partner in the City, too. But he adds that the firm may not need a London presence at all.

“[Birmingham] is a much less congested market for US firms,” he says.

“We have a New York office but we are not a New York law firm, and we are used to working in important cities that are not the principal cities in the country.”

Pittsburgh is a steel town in the US industrial heartland whose businesses have more in common with those in the Midlands than the financial world of London.

“We have a lot of clients with a presence in Birmingham,” says Tucci.

Reed Smith partners are to vote on Friday on whether to merge with Virginia-based firm Hazel & Thomas. If the merger goes ahead, it will create a 600-lawyer practice and put the firm in the top 25 by size in the US.

Eversheds and Pinsent Curtis decline to confirm whether discussions have taken place with Reed Smith.