O’Melveny & Myers has become the latest firm to signal its intention to open an office in Seoul, South Korea, filing an application with the Korean Ministry of Justice. This announcement follows on the news last week that the Ministry of Justice has given final approval to individual lawyers at three law firms to be designated as foreign legal consultants, an important milestone towards opening an office in the country. The three firms are Ropes & Gray, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton and Clifford Chance.
The Korean Ministry of Justice officially started accepting applications from U.S. firms in March. In addition to Ropes & Gray and Sheppard Mullin, other U.S. firms filing applications include Covington & Burling, Paul Hastings and Squire Sanders. Other AmLaw firms that have previously announced plans to launch in Korea include Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, McDermott Will & Emery and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.
So far, Clifford Chance is the only U.K. firm to submit an application. However, Legal Week is reporting that Ashurst is preparing to launch in Seoul, with the firm due to file an application within the next month. Other firms such as Allen & Overy and Linklaters are also known to be active with Korea work. Last year U.K. firms were granted permission to open offices in South Korea with the approval of the free trade agreement that was signed by the European Parliament in February.
William Y. Kim, Korea practice chair at Ropes & Gray, says the firm plans to focus on intellectual property litigation in Seoul, according to The Am Law Daily. The firm’s Korean clients have included LG, Samsung and Daewoo. O’Melveny, too, has a long history of serving Korea-based clients, including Asiana Airlines, Samsung, and SK hynix.
Initially, U.S. firms will be permitted to advise only on U.S. law, public international law and international arbitration. In 2014, firms can enter into cooperative agreements with local firms on work that combines elements of international and local counsel. In 2017, U.S. firms will be able to hire local lawyers and merge with local firms.
Posted by Marianne Purzycki