COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Two major Southern law firms are merging into one firm that will have offices on both coasts and more than 550 attorneys.

The attorneys leading both Alabama-based Maynard Cooper & Gale and South Carolina-based Nexsen Pruet said their similar philosophies and a trend toward companies wanting to deal with bigger law firms led them to combine.

“More and more clients are asking for fewer law firms in their roster,” Nexsen Pruet Chairman Leighton Lord told The Associated Press.

Lord will be the President and Chief Strategy Officer for the new Maynard Nexsen firm. Jeff Grantham, who is the managing shareholder of Maynard Cooper & Gale, will serve as the new firm’s CEO, the combined company announced Thursday.

“The ability to have a bigger bench and a bigger team allows you to be able to handle bigger matters,” Grantham said.

Grantham and Lord met while at law school at Vanderbilt University and each said they admired the other’s law firm from afar. Several years ago, they started meeting to discuss their businesses and the merger talk grew from there.

Each firm had several offices in fast-growing regions. Maynard Cooper & Gale handled financial services litigation and newer internet services laws in fast-growing areas including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Texas and California.

Nexsen Pruet handled many construction, labor, legislative and international business cases from its base along the southern East Coast.

The new firm will have about 550 attorneys and 23 offices in Alabama, California, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Washington, D.C.