South Carolina’s growing stature as an international business hub has helped sway a heavyweight global business law firm to hang out its shingle in the Lowcountry.

K&L Gates LLP opened its first office in the state Monday after recruiting seven partners away from Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein’s downtown Charleston practice.

“With its expanding port and with South Carolina’s distinctive business-friendly climate, Charleston is uniquely well-positioned to continue to attract U.S. and international businesses,” said Peter J. Kalis, chairman and global managing partner of K&L Gates.

Kalis said the idea of expanding into the Palmetto State has been on the firm’s radar screen for several years, following its buyout of a large North Carolina practice.

K&L Gates is a major player in the legal business, with nearly 2,000 lawyers in 40 offices on four continents.

“It really provides a lot of coverage,” said Matt Norton, a real estate attorney and one of the new partners.

K&L Gates is targeting clients statewide that require the legal resources of a global firm.

“There’s an increasing number of really excellent, truly multinational companies either with headquarters or serious operations in South Carolina, not just Charleston,” Norton said.

The practice is operating out of temporary space in the Executive Park at Faber Place in North Charleston. K&L Gates plans to relocate to downtown Charleston within the next month or two, Norton said.

It’s not uncommon for lawyers to jump from one firm to another, In fact, Norton was one of five lawyers who left Nexsen Pruet in 2004 to set up Parker Poe’s local practice.

But he said the switch to K&L Gates is “a really different animal,” based on the firm’s size and footprint. He noted that even the largest law practices with offices in Charleston are by comparison smaller and more regionally focused.

The seven Charleston partners already work with business clients domestically and abroad, he added.

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“It’s just a more comfortable fit for them to be part of an international firm with deep access to the markets where they’re actually working,” Norton said.

The six other attorneys who left Parker Poe are J. Walker Coleman IV, Joshua Dixon, Theodore Manuel, Bryan Walpole III, Jason Walton and James Bruce. The transition has been in the works for about two weeks.

Parker Poe now has 19 attorneys in its Meeting Street branch. The Charlotte-based firm, which has six locations in the Carolinas, remains committed to the local office and its clients, said Bill Farthing, managing partner.

“We have a fine and dramatically growing practice in Charleston,” Farthing said Monday. “It’s a vibrant market, and we’re already actively recruiting to augment that office.”

Contact John McDermott at 937-5572.