Pittsburgh-based Dickie, McCamey & Chilcote has announced the opening of its first South Carolina office.
The new office, located in Lancaster, S.C., is the product of the firm's acquisition of two-attorney workers' compensation defense boutique Miller Lawrence.
That firm's principals, Kenya C. Miller and Stephanie N. Lawrence, have joined Dickie McCamey as of counsel.
Miller, who will head up the new office, said she and Lawrence will maintain full-time practices and that the "of counsel" designation simply means they are not shareholders or associates at the firm.
Dickie McCamey now has 12 offices in seven states.
The announcement comes four months after Dickie McCamey opened a Cleveland office with three litigators from Cleveland-based Gallagher Sharp, including the firm's former products liability practice group chair.
The new office also increases Dickie McCamey's workers' compensation defense presence in the South.
In September 2011, the firm brought workers' compensation defense lawyer Michael W. Ballance, formerly a member of Raleigh, N.C.-based Young Moore and Henderson, on board as a shareholder to open a Raleigh location, Dickie McCamey's second office in North Carolina.
The first was its Charlotte office, which the firm opened in 2008 and quickly expanded with five attorneys, including workers' compensation lawyer Susan H. Briggs, the current shareholder-in-charge of the location.
Jeffrey T. Wiley, managing director and chief operating officer of Dickie McCamey, said part of what spurred the opening of the new South Carolina office was the fact that several of the firms' clients in North Carolina also had matters in South Carolina.
"The opportunities between those three offices are excellent because of their proximity and the kind of practices they have," Wiley said.
But Wiley said that while his firm has been fairly aggressive in its expansion in recent years, it does not enter a new market without first finding quality lawyers with whom to open an office.
"Our goal is to expand regionally by growing our existing offices and by opening new offices when the right opportunity presents itself," Wiley said. "Sometimes we seek the opportunity and sometimes it comes to us. We're very patient because we want to do it right."
Miller and Lawrence had everything the firm was looking for in South Carolina, according to Wiley.
"We found two outstanding lawyers who do excellent work with a good client base that fits with our practice," Wiley said.
Miller focuses her practice on workers' compensation, insurance defense and litigation and administrative and regulatory law.
Lawrence, meanwhile, focuses her practice on workers' compensation, employment law, education law and litigation.
Georgia-based consultant Ed Wesemann said South Carolina is a growing manufacturing hub that includes BMW and Boeing plants.
"It is a growing manufacturing area and not a heavily unionized area," Wesemann said. "Therefore, you have the advantage that a lot of things are done through workers' compensation as opposed to union contracts."
Wesemann did, however, describe South Carolina as "heavily lawyered" with only a small amount of legal business to go around.
Wesemann also said rates are generally low in the state's legal market, but noted that may not matter as much for workers' compensation defense attorneys who handle a high volume of cases.
Miller told The Legal that when Dickie McCamey reached out to her firm she knew it was "a natural fit," in part because the two firms have a number of clients in common, particularly in North Carolina, where the two firms shared a number of insurance and third-party administrator clients.
Miller said she and Lawrence felt their firm could benefit from Dickie McCamey's larger regional presence.
And despite the fact that Miller and Lawrence are merging their two-lawyer shop into a firm with more than 150 attorneys, Miller said their rates will not change.
Wiley said Dickie McCamey has assumed Miller Lawrence's lease for the current office space, but noted that while there is room for expansion at that location, the firm will likely look to move its South Carolina office about 60 miles south to Columbia, the state capital, once it hires more lawyers in the state.
"I think that may be in the short term, but we're going to evaluate as we go," Wiley said.
Wesemann said Columbia, where the University of South Carolina is located, is one of the state's three major cities, along with Charleston and Greenville.
With the announcement of the Lancaster office, Dickie McCamey joins the short list of Pennsylvania firms with South Carolina offices that includes Pittsburgh-based K&L Gates and Reading, Pa.-based Stevens & Lee, both of which have Charleston locations.