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January 5, 2009 5:33 PM

Southern Comfort: Seeking Office in Tar Heel Capitol, Nexsen Pruet Swallows Northern Neighbor

Posted by Brian Baxter

Wanting an office in North Carolina's Research Triangle--home to three major universities, numerous tech companies, and other enterprises--South Carolina's Nexsen Pruet needed to find an established northern neighbor to link up with.

The firm found such a partner in Cary, N.C.-based Sanford Holshouser, a seven-lawyer firm named after former North Carolina governors J. Terry Sanford and James Holshouser, Jr. (Sanford founded the firm in 1965 and died in 1998; Holshouser joined the firm in 1997 and still practices.)

The merger, announced Monday, gives 170-lawyer Nexsen Pruet a presence in the Tar Heel State's capitol. The firm has two offices in North Carolina, in Greensboro and Charlotte. (Ever wonder what the heck a Tar Heel is? We did too. Click here for an answer, courtesy of Yahoo.)

"We do a tremendous amount of work in North Carolina and it's difficult to serve a state without being in the capitol," Nexsen Pruet chairman Leighton Lord III told The News & Observer of Raleigh.

Lord said that a Research Triangle office will allow Nexsen Pruet to better focus on health care, real estate, and economic development issues for clients.

Nexsen Pruet will open an office in Raleigh as a result of the merger, moving newly acquired lawyers like Sanford Holshouser managing partner Ernest Pearson, a former assistant secretary of economic development for the North Carolina Department of Commerce, from suburban Cary.

For tiny Sanford Holshouser, the merger presents new opportunities for its lawyers throughout the Carolinas that weren't readily available as a boutique. (Former governor Holshouser will join Nexsen Pruet in an of counsel capacity, while working out of Pinehurst, N.C.)

The merger is merely the latest this year for law firms operating out of the Carolinas.

In May K&L Gates announced it was in merger talks with 175-lawyer Kennedy Covington Lobdell & Hickman; the two officially merged in July. Only three months earlier, McGuireWoods announced plans to merge with 150-lawyer North Carolina firm Helms Mulliss & Wicker.

Both K&L Gates and McGuireWoods cited an interest in obtaining a presence in the Research Triangle region as an impetus for the mergers.

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