Foreign law firms bid to enter S. Korean legal sector

Featured - August 13th, 2012

South Korea’s widening corporate road is full of complex legal issues, prompting law firms from the US and UK to spot a need and enter the sector after government reforms allowed foreign competition, the Financial Times reports.

The country’s legal sector was closed to foreign law firms and was only opened up following two separate trade agreements with the EU and the US, in July 2011 and March this year, respectively. According to the FT, 17 law firms have applied to open offices in South Korea while a handful, such as Ropes & Gray and Clifford Chance, already received approval to open law firms in the country. The sector will open up gradually: joint ventures between foreign firms and local partners will be allowed after two years but cannot practice domestic law until five years since opening offices in the country.

South Korea also requires heads of a foreign firm’s Korean office to have at least three years work experience in the firm’s home country – giving the US relative advantage over UK law firms due in part to its Korean-speaking lawyers and the large Korean-American community. Only three of the 17 firms are from the UK.