Ashurst is close to applying for licences to practice in South Korea and Beijing as the top 15 UK firm moves ahead with its Asian growth plans.
The firm is expecting to file applications for launches in both Seoul and Beijing in the next month, with the Korean approval likely to take around six months and the Beijing go-ahead slightly longer.
The firm has already suffered a delay in applying for a licence to practise foreign law in Beijing because of the complications thrown up by the fact that legacy Australian firm Blake Dawson, which Ashurst entered into a tie-up with in March, already had an office in Shanghai.
The added process of changing the registered name from Blakes to Ashurst Australia led to delays in the application process, with Chinese alliance firm Guantao Law
Firm instructed to advise on the procedure.
Guantao also guided US firm Bingham McCutchen when it applied for a licence for a Chinese launch last year (9 November 2011).
Ashurst has already announced plans to launch in Beijing with the hire of Mallesons Stephen Jaques banking and finance partner Patrick Phua (1 March 2012), with the confirmation on 1 March coinciding with the firm’s tie-up with Australia’s Blake Dawson going live (26 September 2011).
The Seoul base, meanwhile, will be a representative office to build on existing relationships with Korean clients such as government-owned institutions, energy and natural resources companies and Korean banks. The firm’s current business in the jurisdiction mostly comprises outbound work into Australia, South East Asia and the Middle East, according to Asia head Geoffrey Green.
The bulk of its Korean work is in the energy and infrastructure sphere, although the firm also advises financial institutions clients in the country out of Hong Kong, Green said. A certain amount of work for Korean clients is also currently run out of Tokyo.
Green added that a team of roughly three or four lawyers was likely for the Seoul base.
He commented to The Lawyer: “When we announced back in September the deal with Ashurst Australia, we said that we intended to open in Beijing and Seoul. We’re quite near putting in our applications for both locations.
“Essentially Seoul will be a liaison office to give us proximity to the Korean clients we already act for on work coming out of Korea into Australia, South East Asia and the Middle East. We can’t say how long our applications will take before we are licenced in these locations.”