2Birds’ Korean flightpath highlights heated market

It’s only two years since South Korea opened up its legal market to foreign firms. In that time, about 20 international firms have set up a foreign legal consultant office (FLCO) in the market.

But Bird & Bird’s entry today, via a non-exclusive association with local firm Hwang Mok Park, could be the most significant yet. Hwang Mok Park is one of Korea’s biggest firms, with 100 lawyers, giving 2Birds access to a potentially deeper client list than the FLCO route allows.

News of 2Birds’ swoop into Seoul comes as the country’s president, Park Geun Hye, announced a three-year investment plan designed to lift growth and encourage entrepreneurs. The country is already one of Asia’s success stories, but the plan to diversify the economy further – away from an over reliance on giants like Samsung – prompted a positive response from economists.

It means more firms are likely to try and grab a perch in South Korea. US firms are currently leading the way, along with UK representatives such as Clifford Chance, DLA Piper, Herbert Smith Freehills, Linklaters and, imminently, Stephenson Harwood.

Whether newcomers opt for the tried-and-tested FLCO route, or follow 2Birds by partnering with a local association, the flight path between London and Seoul is likely to become packed with lawyers.

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