29 Jul 2022

Kennedys continues US expansion with Houston launch

Firm adds energy insurance partner trio from local rivals to open ninth US shop

Skyline of Houston, Texas in daytime under blue sky

Shutterstock; travelview

UK law firm Kennedys had hired a trio of energy insurance partners from local rivals to open its ninth US office, in Houston. 

Doug Wheat, formerly of Wheat Oppermann, has joined alongside Candace Ourso and Callie Murphy, both from Schouest Bamdas Soshea & BenMaier. Associate Amanda Farley has also moved over from Wheat Oppermann.

The firm said client need had prompted the launch in Houston, regarded as one of the energy capitals of the world, and that the three new partners based there would help it meet rising demand. 

The move marks the latest step of US expansion for Kennedys, which since launching in the country in 2017 through a merger with insurance heavyweight Carroll McNulty and Kull has opened a total of nine offices there, including another in Texas in Austin. 

Christopher Carroll, US senior partner, said the new arrivals “bring a huge amount of experience in defence litigation, which is a key area for us, and I am thrilled to welcome them”.

Wheat has practised in Texas and Louisiana for more than 40 years, focusing on civil defence advice in energy, maritime and transportation as well as workers’ compensation. He also has extensive experience defending general liability, toxic tort, products liability, property and casualty and construction cases. 

His boutique firm is winding down with longstanding partner Gus David Oppermann having joined Fort Worth-based Bridgelink Investments, which focuses on renewable investments, as associate general counsel. 

Ourso, meanwhile, advises on complex energy and marine insurance coverage issues involving domestic and foreign insurers, energy-related subrogation, admiralty, maritime and energy, mass casualty and excess liability coverage disputes.  

Murphy's experience includes representing US and London market insurers across multiple lines including energy, marine, construction, aviation and transportation. She also regularly litigates commercial matters, intellectual property disputes and advises on complex marine and energy coverage matters. 

Kennedys now has more than 160 lawyers across its nine US offices, three of which – San Francisco, Wilmington and now Houston – opened in the last two years.

The firm added a quartet of partners from Hinshaw & Culbertson for the San Francisco launch in June 2020 and hired veteran commercial litigator Marc Casarino from US firm White and Williams to open in Wilmington, Delaware in March. 

Elsewhere the firm, which in June reported revenue growth of 8% to £286m for the financial year 2021/22, is also in growth mode. 

Since spring 2021 it has launched offices in Perth and Oman and announced associations with local firms in Turkey, Bolivia and Ecuador. 

The firm has also been busily promoting internal talent, making up 22 lawyers to partner in a record round in May that was notable for its geographic spread. 

Earlier this year it doubled its footprint in Madrid as part of its ‘WorkWise’ global workplace transformation programme, which will also see the London team move from Fenchurch Avenue into new office space in the city’s Walkie-Talkie building and its Sydney team move into 25 Martin Place. 

And just last month the firm announced that Kennedys Kognitive Computing, its technology operation in India, had more than doubled its office space as it continues to grow its development team, with the new space having capacity for up to 70 employees. 

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