Southeast law firm opens Charleston outpost amid hot Carolinas legal market

REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao
  • Baker Donelson now has 23 offices
  • Firm opened a six-attorney North Carolina office in October

(Reuters) - Baker Donelson is continuing its expansion in the Carolinas by opening a Charleston, South Carolina office, the firm said Monday.

The Southeast U.S. regional law firm opened an office in Raleigh, North Carolina, in October and has had a Columbia, South Carolina office since 2016. It hired lawyers away from Womble Bond Dickinson and Parker Poe for its new Charleston office.

The move comes in a busy year for legal markets across the Carolinas. Greenberg Traurig said in April that it hired a Winston & Strawn partner to open a Charlotte office. Another Florida-founded global firm, Holland & Knight, expanded its Charlotte office in June with five private equity partners from Moore & Van Allen. Dallas-based Haynes and Boone also expanded in Charlotte with the addition of three lawyers in October.

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Milwaukee-based law firm Michael Best & Friedrich said in January that it acquired the 23-lawyer Forrest Firm, adding offices in Asheville, Charlotte, Durham, Greensboro, Grenville, Wilmington and Winston-Salem.

The founding shareholders in Baker Donelson's new Charleston office are health law attorneys Alissa Fleming and Catherine Wrenn, who joined from Womble, and corporate attorney Ashley Cooper and employment attorney Jennifer Dunlap, who joined from Parker Poe.

A representative from Womble did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Kristen Leis, chief marketing and business development officer at Parker Poe, said the number of attorneys at the firm grew 38% over the last three years and it is "unequivocally" looking to grow in Charleston.

Mark Carlson, Baker Donelson's chief growth officer, said the firm is working to create full service offices in its Carolinas locations.

"We have missed out on opportunities in North and South Carolina because we haven't had enough boots on the ground," he said.

(NOTE: This update includes a correction in a reference to a 38% percent increase in partner head count at Parker Poe to reflect that the increase includes all attorneys.)

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Chinekwu Osakwe covers legal industry news with a focus on midsize law firms. Reach her at Chinekwu.osakwe@thomsonreuters.com.