McDermott prepares for South Korea launch

McDermott Will & Emery is laying the ground for a Seoul launch and has deployed Korea head In-Young Lee to the city to lead the preparation.

The firm’s co-chair Jeffrey Stone is also currently in Seoul to facilitate the launch, which is scheduled for April.

Initially, there will be at least three lawyers based in Seoul. According to Lee, the new office will focus almost exclusively on work that is outbound from Korea, with any inbound work to Korea to be handled in close consultation with local Korean firms. The firm stated that it has no intention of providing any Korean law advice.

“McDermott’s office in Seoul represents a strategic alignment of opportunities for the firm,” said Stone in a statement. “Korea’s a vibrant economic market, but one where, due to legal restrictions, there’s been little international law firm presence to date.”

The firm has been working with Korean business and government agencies for over 30 years. In 2011 the fir represented Fila Korea and Mirae Asset Private Equity in their $1.2bn acquisition of the Acushnet golf business and several brands from New York-listed Fortune Brands.

Another key development of the firm’s Korea practice group is the recent appointment of Jay Eizenstat as a partner in Washington. Eizenstat was a trade negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative from 2003 to 2008, and was one of the lead negotiators of the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

Following the ratification of the US-Korea and EU-Korea Free Trade Agreements at the end of last year, foreign law firms are, for the first time, allowed to open offices and practise law in South Korea.

In addition to McDermott, a number of other US firms have voiced their intention to enter the market in 2012 (2 January 2012). Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Paul Hastings, Sheppard Mullin and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett have confirmed plans to launch in Seoul as soon as practicable this year.