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December 12, 2011 5:55 AM

K&L Gates Adds Seven Partners from Parker Poe to Launch In South Carolina

Posted by Tom Huddleston Jr.

CORRECTIONS: 12/12/11, 8:30 a.m. EST. This article originally misstated the number of K&L Gates overseas offices. Also, the Raleigh and Research Park Triangle offices were added as part of the combination with Kennedy Covington. We regret the errors.

K&L Gates announced Monday that it has opened its twenty-fourth office in the United States—and its fortieth overall—by launching a location in Charleston, South Carolina, with the addition of a seven-partner team from Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein.

"South Carolina has one of the most business-friendly public policy climates in the United States . . . and we expect it to be, increasingly, a destination for national and international businesses," Peter Kalis, K&L Gates's chairman and global managing partner, tells The Am Law Daily.

Joining K&L Gates to open the new office are former Parker Poe partners Matthew Norton, J. Walker Coleman IV, Joshua Dixon, Theodore Manuel, Bryan Walpole III, Jason Walton, and James Bruce. Norton joins his new firm's global resort and hospitality practice, while Coleman and Dixon will work in the employment and commercial litigation areas. Manuel, Walpole, and Walton all join K&L Gates's banking and tax group; Bruce is a corporate transactional attorney. The seven departures leave Parker Poe, which maintains six offices scattered throughout the Carolinas, with half as many partners in its Charleston office as before.

Kalis says he expects an unspecified number of staffers and lower-level attorneys to also make the move to K&L Gates from Parker Poe, but that there is no specific head count target for the Charleston office as of now. Instead, he says, the firm will grow "opportunistically and strategically" over time.

In welcoming the new additions, Kalis touts their regional and international experience, specifically in the resort and hospitality industry. The group is also expected to cater to Charleston's financial services industry, and to put K&L Gates in a position to pick up additional assignments if, as many observers suggest, the city sees an influx of corporations in the manufacturing, aviation, and automobile industries. (The discord over one company's relocation of some operations to the city appears over now that Seattle-based Boeing and its machinists' union have agreed on a new four-year contract. The agreement ends a two-year dispute that prompted a controversial National Labor Relations Board complaint.)

The widening of the Panama Canal—scheduled for completion in 2014—is viewed as a boon to various East Coast port cities, including those in South Carolina. The Port of Charleston is already the fourth-busiest container port in the country, and the city has been exploring ways to secure financing to make itself more accessible to large ships. In April, The Am Law Daily noted that the predicted surge in shipping activity has already attracted one Am Law firm to Charleston: Winston-Salem, N.C.-based Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice, which acquired 44-lawyer firm Buist Moore Smythe McGee in Charleston.

Kalis says that in addition to helping the Charleston office attract new business, an expansion of port activity  "harmonizes nicely with an existing practice of the firm": its maritime practice. While the firm's existing maritime group is based in Washington, D.C., Kalis says he expects maritime specialists there to work in concert with those based in Charleston.

K&L Gates made its first move into the Carolinas in 2008 when it acquired Charlotte firm Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman. That combination also gave the firm it's two other North Carolina offices, one in Raleigh, the other in Research Triangle Park.

Kalis says he expects the Charleston office to see plenty of competition for regional work from other firms. At the same time, he believes K&L Gates has an edge when it comes to matters with an international angle. "Which law firm is going to be the legal bridge to the globalized world of the twenty-first century for South Carolina enterprises?" Kalis says. "Well, starting Monday, there's only one. Of course, if we start doing well, I suspect there will be more than one."

K&L Gates expanded its international presence last month by opening an office in São Paulo, its first in South America. The 1,763-lawyer firm's other overseas outposts are in Beijing, Berlin, Brussels, Doha, Dubai, Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Moscow, Paris, Shanghai, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo, and Warsaw. According to the most recent Am Law 100 survey, K&L Gates saw its gross revenue increase 2 percent in 2010, to $1.05 billion; profits per partner rose about 8 percent, to $930,000.

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