CORRECTION: 5/22/2013, 11:00 a.m. EDT. The sixth paragraph of this story misstated the date of Moore & Van Allen’s opening in Charleston. We regret the error.

Adams and Reese is the latest Am Law 200 firm to set up shop in South Carolina, announcing Tuesday its combination with 23-lawyer general practice shop Ellis, Lawhorne & Sims in the Palmetto State’s capital city of Columbia.

The merger marks New Orleans–based Adams and Reese’s latest bid to expand its presence in the southeastern United States. The 300-lawyer firm, which recently opened a pair of offices in Florida vie tie-ups with local shops, saw South Carolina as the next logical step in its growth efforts.

“Our strategic plan has been to grow in similar-size markets through the South, particularly state capitals,” says Adams and Reese managing partner Charles Adams Jr., who spoke with The Am Law Daily by phone from Destin, Florida, where he was getting an early start on the Memorial Day holiday weekend. “As the economy turns around, we see the potential for tremendous opportunities for our firm.”

Citing a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek report that ranked Columbia 14th on a list of the 40 strongest U.S. metropolitan economies, Adams says the city is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Given that growth, it’s not surprising that his firm isn’t the only member of The Am Law 200 to enter the South Carolina market in recent years.

The Am Law Daily reported last year on Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice’s opening in Columbia through its absorption of three-lawyer shop Hall & Bowers. The move followed Womble Carlyle’s 2011 merger with 44-lawyer Charleston firm Buist Moore Smythe McGee, creating the largest firm in the Carolinas, according to our previous reports. (Womble Carlyle’s Columbia hires helped the firm pick up the work representing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley against charges she abused her office for personal gain.)

In late 2011, K&L Gates entered Charleston after picking up seven partners from leading regional firm Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein, around the same time that top North Carolina firm Moore & Van Allen increased its presence in Charleston by acquiring nine-lawyer Hagood & Kerr in suburban Mount Pleasant. Moore & Van Allen entered Charleston in 1997 and earlier this year the firm moved its office in the city into the historic Kress Building.

While those firms expanded into South Carolina, Adams and Reese was busy bolstering its presence elsewhere regionally. The firm entered Florida in early 2010 with office openings in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa, with the latter outpost launching following the arrival of a team of lawyers from dwindling—and now-defunct—Florida firm Ruden McClosky.

Adams and Reese has sought to build on that Sunshine State presence over the past few months, announcing a Tallahassee office opening last year after bringing on 11 attorneys and staff from local firm Igler & Dougherty and opening in Jacksonville on March 1 following a merger with 12-lawyer local litigation shop Volpe, Bajalia, Wickes, Rogerson & Wachs, according to our previous reports.

Adams credits Aime Vogel-Antman, a legal specialist in Tampa with Criterion Executive Search, as playing a key role in the firm’s expansion efforts into Jacksonville and Columbia, after taking the time to find the right fit in Ellis Lawhorne, which was founded in 1980.

The small firm’s lawyers joining Adams and Reese in South Carolina include 16 partners and seven associates, says Adams, noting that Ellis Lawhorne is built across several practice areas—including state capital regulatory expertise, commercial litigation, tax, transactional, and trusts and estates—that can serve his firm’s clients. Ellis Lawhorne managing partner William McElveen Jr. will serve as head of the transactional practice for the combined firm, whose merger will become official on June 1.

And while some Am Law 200 firms have been shuttering their trusts and estates practices, Adams says Ellis Lawhorne’s local estate-planning group is considered one of the best in South Carolina. Adams notes that Adams and Reese has found success in leveraging the practice throughout the South as an introduction to “folks with substantial business interests” who will in turn use the firm for other legal services.

The largest firms native to South Carolina are Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Nexsen Pruet, Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd, and the McNair Law Firm, according to sibling publication The National Law Journal, which recently reported that large firms throughout the south have been on the rebound as the region recovers from years of economic recession.

CORRECTION: 5/22/2013, 11:00 a.m. EDT. The sixth paragraph of this story misstated the date of Moore & Van Allen ‘s opening in Charleston. We regret the error.

Adams and Reese is the latest Am Law 200 firm to set up shop in South Carolina, announcing Tuesday its combination with 23-lawyer general practice shop Ellis, Lawhorne & Sims in the Palmetto State’s capital city of Columbia.

The merger marks New Orleans–based Adams and Reese ‘s latest bid to expand its presence in the southeastern United States. The 300-lawyer firm, which recently opened a pair of offices in Florida vie tie-ups with local shops, saw South Carolina as the next logical step in its growth efforts.

“Our strategic plan has been to grow in similar-size markets through the South, particularly state capitals,” says Adams and Reese managing partner Charles Adams Jr., who spoke with The Am Law Daily by phone from Destin, Florida, where he was getting an early start on the Memorial Day holiday weekend. “As the economy turns around, we see the potential for tremendous opportunities for our firm.”

Citing a recent Bloomberg BusinessWeek report that ranked Columbia 14th on a list of the 40 strongest U.S. metropolitan economies, Adams says the city is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolitan areas. Given that growth, it’s not surprising that his firm isn’t the only member of The Am Law 200 to enter the South Carolina market in recent years.

The Am Law Daily reported last year on Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice ‘s opening in Columbia through its absorption of three-lawyer shop Hall & Bowers. The move followed Womble Carlyle ‘s 2011 merger with 44-lawyer Charleston firm Buist Moore Smythe McGee, creating the largest firm in the Carolinas, according to our previous reports. ( Womble Carlyle ‘s Columbia hires helped the firm pick up the work representing South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley against charges she abused her office for personal gain.)

In late 2011, K&L Gates entered Charleston after picking up seven partners from leading regional firm Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein , around the same time that top North Carolina firm Moore & Van Allen increased its presence in Charleston by acquiring nine-lawyer Hagood & Kerr in suburban Mount Pleasant. Moore & Van Allen entered Charleston in 1997 and earlier this year the firm moved its office in the city into the historic Kress Building.

While those firms expanded into South Carolina, Adams and Reese was busy bolstering its presence elsewhere regionally. The firm entered Florida in early 2010 with office openings in Sarasota, St. Petersburg, and Tampa, with the latter outpost launching following the arrival of a team of lawyers from dwindling—and now-defunct—Florida firm Ruden McClosky .

Adams and Reese has sought to build on that Sunshine State presence over the past few months, announcing a Tallahassee office opening last year after bringing on 11 attorneys and staff from local firm Igler & Dougherty and opening in Jacksonville on March 1 following a merger with 12-lawyer local litigation shop Volpe, Bajalia, Wickes, Rogerson & Wachs, according to our previous reports.

Adams credits Aime Vogel-Antman, a legal specialist in Tampa with Criterion Executive Search, as playing a key role in the firm’s expansion efforts into Jacksonville and Columbia, after taking the time to find the right fit in Ellis Lawhorne, which was founded in 1980.

The small firm’s lawyers joining Adams and Reese in South Carolina include 16 partners and seven associates, says Adams, noting that Ellis Lawhorne is built across several practice areas—including state capital regulatory expertise, commercial litigation, tax, transactional, and trusts and estates—that can serve his firm’s clients. Ellis Lawhorne managing partner William McElveen Jr. will serve as head of the transactional practice for the combined firm, whose merger will become official on June 1.

And while some Am Law 200 firms have been shuttering their trusts and estates practices, Adams says Ellis Lawhorne’s local estate-planning group is considered one of the best in South Carolina. Adams notes that Adams and Reese has found success in leveraging the practice throughout the South as an introduction to “folks with substantial business interests” who will in turn use the firm for other legal services.

The largest firms native to South Carolina are Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough , Nexsen Pruet , Haynsworth Sinkler Boyd , and the McNair Law Firm , according to sibling publication The National Law Journal, which recently reported that large firms throughout the south have been on the rebound as the region recovers from years of economic recession.