Linklaters and Bakers given green light for Seoul launch

Baker & McKenzie and Linklaters have obtained regulatory approval from South Korea’s Ministry of Law to launch into Seoul.

Linklaters submitted its application for a Foreign Legal Consultant Office certificate last September (25 September 2012). The firm’s Korea practice is currently carried out by the Hong Kong office and is led by Hong Kong-based capital markets partner Hyung Jung Ahn.

“We are pleased to confirm that we have been given approval by the Korean Ministry of Justice to open an office in Seoul, and we are currently completing our final preparations for opening,” said a Linklaters spokesperson.

In a bid to build up its Korean practice, the firm hired senior consultant Hyo Young Kang from Seoul-based Korean firm Yulchon in 2011. Kang is a native Korean lawyer who is qualified in Hong Kong and England and Wales and previously worked in Allen & Overy’s Hong Kong office.

Linklaters Korea practice group’s recent deal highlights include advising Lone Star on its sale of its 51 per cent stake in Korea Exchange Bank to Hana Financial Group and advising Affinity Equity Partners on the LBO of Oriental Brewery together with KKR.

Baker & McKenzie handed in its application for the new office last November (20 November 2012). The new office will be led by transactional partner Nam Hung Paik, who is currently based in Bakers’ Hong Kong office. The new office will advise Korean clients on outbound legal matters such as acquisitions and the financing of overseas projects and enterprises, anti-trust matters and IP rights.

In preparation for the new base, the firm hired Korean lawyer Seong Soo Kim as a partner in its banking and finance and Korea practices in Hong Kong in January (11 January 2013). Admitted to practise law in New York, Kim joined from Korea’s largest law firm by revenue and lawyer number, Kim & Chang, where he had practised since 1996.

Bakers currently has over 20 Korean lawyers across its global network, with six of them based in Hong Kong, and is currently led by Hong Kong-based corporate partner Won Lee.

Clifford Chance (16 July 2012 ) is the first UK firm to have opened in Seoul, Herbert Smith Freehills(13 March 2013) and DLA Piper (7 January 2013) have also recently received the go-ahead.

For an overview of the country’s liberalising legal services market and the largest local players, see The Lawyer’s recent Korea special report (10 September 2012).