Although not South Car­olina’s largest city, Greenville and its environs certainly reflect the changing South. The historic textile capital’s population has grown by more than 30 percent since the turn of the century as manufacturing, banking, venture capital and a vibrant startup community expanded. "The Upstate" region is now home to some 250 international firms, including BMW Manufacturing Corp., Michelin North America Inc., GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Kyocera Corp.

"Banking, securities, mergers/acquisitions, tax, immigration, intellectual property, employment and general corporate work are all on the rise," said Timothy Madden, managing partner of Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough’s Greenville office. Meanwhile, the recession "turned out many law school graduates who became solo practitioners, thereby increasing competition among general-practice attorneys." Phyllis Burkhard, director of career services at the University of South Carolina School of Law in Columbia, confirmed that South Carolina is home to many solo practitioners and small firms. "Half the lawyers in the state work in firms of less than 10 lawyers," she said.

Major firms slowed hiring during the worst of the recession but are growing again, Madden said. "Over the past several years a few in-state, out-of-town firms opened offices here by affiliating with attorneys already in the market. For the most part these are litigation-focused firms, concentrating on the defense side."

Finance and heath care will drive practice growth, he said. "The regulations in the financial sector and the reform of health care will continue to keep the attention of corporate and employment lawyers." Nelson Mullins itself is seeing an increase in out-of-town and out-of-state work in "securities, mergers/acquisitions, banking and corporate" from clients who "are seeking and receiving better rates for higher quality work." — Lisa Holton