Kennedys hires four-partner team from Hinshaw & Culbertson to open in San Francisco

UK insurance firm boosts maritime law capability as it unveils seventh US office
Dusk over San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and San Francisco Skyline from Yerba Buena Island

San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge: San Francisco is an important maritime market yhelfman; Shutterstock

Top 30 UK firm Kennedys has opened an office in San Francisco after hiring four partners from Hinshaw & Culbertson. 

The arrival of Forrest Booth, Erik Kowalewsky, Pamela Schultz and Jonathan Thames secures Kennedys its first California office and its seventh in the US.

The quartet enjoy broad insurance and reinsurance practices, with Booth, Schultz and Thames forming one of the largest maritime practices in San Francisco, a major Pacific transport node. 

Booth was formerly senior partner of Hinshaw’s maritime and energy practice.

Kowalewsky, meanwhile, has significant London market experience, including coverage disputes - relevant experience in the current levels of business uncertainty – and can cover off claims arising from manuscript policy forms under US and English law.

Kennedys has built up its London market capabilities in recent years, having hired a five-partner team in London from Mayer Brown in 2017, and promoted strongly in this area over the last two years. 

The quartet have built strong relationships with underwriters, clients, agents and others in both wet and dry forms of shipping law, while also possessing strong energy and commodities skills, in related areas of insurance coverage and recovery, including carriage issues. 

Kennedys ramped up its US practice in 2017 when it merged with 45-partner Carroll McNulty & Kull (CMK), having opened its first US office, in Miami, in 2015.

Christopher Carroll, former CMK name partner and a member of Kennedys’ global strategy board, said: “We have seen significant demand from our existing US clients over the last few years to open in California, and this sees us respond to that.”

US managing partner Meg Catalano added: “It is especially exciting and gratifying to be able to move forward with the opening of this office during these difficult and challenging times in the US and globally. The team’s experience will be invaluable in growing this office further and will strengthen our insurance coverage and global marine capabilities.”

Nick Thomas, the firm’s veteran senior partner, called the move “an exciting milestone to have reached in an important and growing market for us”.

Kennedys has made steady inroads over the last two years into the US insurance market, through a number of prominent lateral hires, which last year led to a 12% increase in headcount, with a 16% growth in turnover announced in June 2019.

It promoted four partners in the US in a thirteen-strong 2020 partner round, an improvement of three on 2019, with two promotions in New Jersey, one in New York, and one in Miami.

Lateral hires in the last two years included a six-lawyer team in New York and a four partner team in Chicago, both from Sedgwick, while two partners joined the firm’s New Jersey and New York offices from White and Williams last year.

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