Korean firms Lee & Ko and Park & Partners have merged, creating the country's second-largest law firm.
Comprising 130 lawyers, the combined firm will retain the name Lee & Ko but will not be fully integrated in terms of office and infrastructure until suitable accommodation can be found. Managing partner Tae Hee Lee will head the firm. Lee & Ko is one of Korea's 'big four' firms, along with Kim & Chang, Bae Kim & Lee and Shin & Kim. Although Kim & Chang is by far the largest firm in the region, with almost twice the number of practitioners as its nearest rival, the merger between Lee & Ko and Park & Partners indicates that the gap may be closing. The merger with Park & Partners adds a strong litigation capability to its more corporate cohort. Corporate and intellectual property partner Jae Hoon Kim said: "Park & Partners is a very privileged firm in the area of litigation and we wanted to strengthen our ability in this area." He added that the aim of the merged firm is to narrow Korea's traditional big four to just two competing firms. The country's legal market is closed to foreign firms, although the many firms trying to break in are cautiously optimistic that the intense lobbying of the past few years will soon result in a relaxation of the prohibition on the establishment of foreign practices. Clifford Chance is known to use Lee & Ko among other Korean firms, although James Walker, a partner in the Hong Kong-based Korean practice group, was at a loss when asked why Lee & Ko would specifically target Park & Partners.