South Korea set for foreign law firm revolution

South Korea is to publish a draft Foreign Legal Consultant’s Bill this week, which will allow foreign law firms to open in the country for the first time by mid-2008.

The South Korean Ministry of Justice is about to publish a draft bill that singles out the legal market for liberalisation. If the bill is passed, it will allow foreign law firms to open in the country for the first time by mid-2008.

Law Society’s head of international Alison Hook told The Lawyer: “This is a very exciting time. Once the bill goes through parliament it is happening. It has never been concrete before.”

The Korean Ministry of Justice will publish the draft Bill this week and a public hearing will follow next week. The Bill will then be sent to the National Assembly before the year-end. The National Assembly estimates that it will take six months to approve the bill and would come into force by mid-2008.

While the draft bill prohibits the employment of local lawyers and fee-sharing with Korean lawyers, Hook has indicated that the Ministry of Justice is already considering these issues. The Ministry has indicated a willingness to discuss these issues during Free Trade Agreement negotiations with the EU and the US.

The EU discussions will begin in February while the US negotiations are ongoing.