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South Korea > Legal market overview

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Editorial

A significant amount of domestic activity in the Korean market over the past year has focused on the employment sector, in particular relating to the disputes arising from the jurisdiction’s singular ‘ordinary wage’ policies.

A number of class action lawsuits are currently pending before the Korean courts and the substantial retrospective wage pay-outs that could be ordered are potentially ruinous for small and medium sized companies. These companies are therefore choosing their counsel carefully, and many of the country’s biggest firms – including Lee & Ko and Kim & Chang – have been highly active in this area, as have Bae, Kim & Lee LLCYulchon, Yoon & Yang LLC and Shin & Kim.

FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Yulchon

Yulchon is a full-service international law firm headquartered in Seoul, Korea. It employs over 360 professionals, including more than 60 licensed in jurisdictions outside of Korea. The firm’s perspective is international and its reach is global. It has represented clients from six continents and has helped companies expand around the globe. Yulchon strives to provide the most innovative solutions to the complex legal challenges confronting its clients.

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FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Cho & Partners

Cho & Partners was established in 2002 by two senior attorneys who decided to leave a large firm environment to create a more focused, efficient and responsive practice. Based on the reputation and capabilities of the founding members, as well as the established trust and loyalty of their clients, Cho & Partners was immediately active in representing multinational clients. The firm’s clients are among the most recognised names and leaders in various business sectors, such as software and technology, retail, luxury goods and fashion, and energy.

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FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Kim & Chang

Kim & Chang, widely recognised as Korea’s premier law firm, has set the standard for excellence for legal services in every major area of practice since its establishment in 1973. The principles on which the firm was founded, and to which it still adheres today, enable it to provide the highest quality legal advice to clients – specialisation in core practice areas, dedication to meeting the distinctive needs of each client, and globalisation of professionals and staff. The firm’s professionals include attorneys, patent attorneys, tax attorneys, economists and industry sector specialists. Having advised the majority of landmark transactions, projects and cases in Korea, the firm has earned an enviable track record for developing innovative solutions to the increasingly complex legal challenges that clients face today, both in Korea and overseas.

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FIRMS IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Shin & Kim

Now in its 34th year, Shin & Kim is one of the largest and highly regarded law firms in Korea. The breadth and depth of experience offered by over 400 professionals (including Korean and foreign attorneys, patent attorneys, tax attorneys, certified public accountants, customs specialists and other advisors) has kept the firm at the forefront of changes in the global financial market and the international business environment. The practice has expanded with the increase in intra-regional cooperation and investments, with Shin & Kim’s offices in Beijing and Shanghai providing comprehensive legal advisory services in China.

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Elsewhere, lawyers report a steady increase in outbound transactions and investment, fuelled largely by the importance the Korean government is now attaching to such activity. Korean companies are still mainly active in Asia and the US in this area, but European markets and projects are starting to be explored. There has also been a small spike in capital markets activity.

For foreign firms entering the market, the competition is stiff. A number are well positioned to compete with the domestic market leaders for cross-border corporate, banking and M&A work, but all are having to identify a USP to guarantee prosperity in the long term.

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