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Covington & Burling has become the latest US firm to file a preliminary application for a Seoul office, and has hired corporate lawyer William Park from local Korean firm Apex to oversee the expansion.
Park, a native of Korea, will become a partner of Covington initially in the firm’s San Francisco office and will relocate to Seoul once the approval is granted.
Park spent the first 10 years of his career practising in the US, first with Latham & Watkins and later at his own law firm Kwak Kim & Park in Los Angeles, handling a broad range of legal issues relating to Korean companies investing and doing business in the US.
In 2000, he returned to Korea to practise with a number of local law firms, mainly advising Korean companies and banks on general corporate matters and in antitrust investigations in the US and the EU, as well as IP and general litigation involving US matters. Most recently, he was a foreign counsel at 100-lawyer firm Apex.
Covington will also deploy Washington DC-based senior of counsel Daniel Spiegel to the new office. Spiegel was a former US ambassador to the United Nations and specialises in international policy practice and government affairs.
The firm does work for Korean companies on matters in the US and the EU. Samsung, for example, has instructed the firm to represent it in antitrust matters and patent litigation in the US.
“We think we have strong relationships with clients in Korea already and we believe we have a range of practices and capabilities that could add important value to Korean companies looking to do business around the world,” said Timothy Hester, chair of the firm’s management committee.
“It’s of strategic importance for us to be on the ground to strengthen our relationship with existing clients and develop new opportunities.”
The principle focus of Covington’s Seoul office will be advising Korean companies on US and European laws in the areas of intellectual property, antitrust and competition law matters, international trade controls and policy, and the regulation of food products, pharmaceutical and medical devices.
The new office will also offer regulatory advice in relation to The Committee on Foreign Investment in the US (CFIUS) for Korean companies’ investments and acquisitions in the US, along with general corporate, transactional and financing advice.
The Seoul office will be the US firm’s third base in Asia. It opened its first Asia office in Beijing in 2008 and has recently applied for a second China office in Shanghai after hiring three partners from Wilson Sonsini (9 February 2012).
According to Korea’s Ministry of Justice, seven US firms submitted a preliminary application for a foreign legal consultant office in Korea on the first day of applications (6 March 2012). They are Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray, Sheppard Mullin, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Cohen & Gresser, Squire Sanders and the Law offices of Park & Associates. UK firm Clifford Chance has also applied (16 February 2012).
It is understood that the preliminary applications will take a couple of months to be cleared and the final approval will then take another month or two.