Ropes & Gray joins Paul Hastings on list of US firms targeting Seoul launch

Ropes & Gray has become the latest US firm to draw up plans to enter Korea, while Paul Hastings has claimed to be the first US firm to submit a preliminary application for a Seoul office to the Ministry of Justice of Korea.

Ropes, which opened an office in Shanghai last September (21 July 2011), plans to further expand its presence in Asia with an office launch in Seoul.

Ropes’s Seoul office will be headed by the firm’s Korea practice chair William Yongkyun Kim and IP litigation partner David Chun.

Over the past decade Ropes has been offering its services to Korean clients such as LG, Hitachi-LG Data Storage, Samsung, Daewoo, Hyundai Motors and Hanjin.

From its Seoul office, the firm will focus on IP, antitrust, corporate transactions, life sciences and government investigations and anti-corruption regulations.

Ropes chairman Bradford Malt said in a statement: “We’re transparent in how we’re working, and we make key decisions jointly. This requires open and easy communication. So being in geographic proximity to our Korean clients, as soon as regulations allow, is something we’re eager to do.”

The firm will file its application for a preliminary review to practice in Korea today (6 March), the first day that international firms and lawyers can officially file documentation with the Korean Ministry of Justice.

Paul Hastings, meanwhile, said it is the first US firm to have submitted a preliminary application for a Seoul office. It would make the firm the second international firm to have done so, following Clifford Chance (16 February 2012).

Paul Hastings first announced its plan to open in Korea in November 2011 (28 November 2011), when the Korea-US Free Trade Agreement was ratified.

Once the office is established, Paul Hastings will relocate Korea practice head Jong Han Kim and partner Daniel Kim from Hong Kong to Seoul. The firm plans to have up to 20 lawyers in Seoul in the next few years.

The firm’s Korea practice has over 25 years of experience advising both Korean and international clients in cross-border Korean transactions and litigation cases.