While Korea has been transformed by a liberalized legal market and emerging technologies – change is slow for the country’s legal market — according to Ryan Russell – a corporate finance attorney with Kim & Chang in Seoul and noted author of Kimchi Law Blog.  Russell outlines his thoughts about the impact of technology and recent trade agreements with the EU and US in a new book by this author entitled “A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets“.  Integral to the book was the participation of the regions lawyers and legal services sector professionals — who provide commentary and analysis of the issues and trends currently impacting Asia-Pacific’s legal markets.

Over the course of the next weeks and months we are highlighting those contributions and those authors.  As a follow-up to our first four posts in this series, we turn to Ryan Russell’s analysis of the Korean market in this preview:

On legal market liberalization and its impact upon Korea’s legal market:

“So far the largest effect the FTA’s have had on the legal market is probably the recent hiring splurges of Korea’s major domestic firms” Russell explains. “In the years leading up to signing of the major FTA’s (EU/US), most of Seoul’s largest law firms doubled (and by some counts even tripled) in size…Seoul’s legal market is easily more saturated than it’s ever been.”

On whether free-trade agreements with the US and EU have changed the work Korea’s lawyers are seeing:

Russell outlined that: “As the provisions of the FTA’s become more fully implemented, it is quite possible that significant impacts in practice-specific legal services will be seen (especially if the Korean regulatory environment continues its very recent (and still gradual) float towards pro-business policies).”

Will a proposed three-way FTA with Japan and China likely to have a significant impact upon the nature and volume of legal work in Korea?

“Increased ties with China offer intriguing opportunities to buyers of Korean legal services. China has been Korea’s largest trading partner for several years, but that relationship is maturing in meaningful ways that will very likely require increased reliance on legal services (China’s awarding Korean companies an RMB 80.0 billion RQFII quota is only one recent example)”Russell outlined.

How have changes in technology impacted legal practice in Korea?

Russell explained that: “Korea is (in)famous for combining the old and the new in an often charming, and at times befuddling, manner. On the one hand, Korea’s penchant for tech savviness and unsurpassed connectivity is no less than would be expected in the hometown of companies like Samsung and LG. On the other hand, “face time” (for the sake of face time) is, for better and worse, more than simply an antiquated relic of a simpler time – in some cases it may seem an almost sacred element of firm culture.”

How has law blogging influenced you?

“In reality, legal blogging encourages me to better contextualize individual client issues, stay abreast of changing legal developments and find answers to clients’ questions even before they pose them.”

On advice for law students eying a career in law in Korea:

“As I say on my blog, experience practicing in major legal markets (such as New York, Hong Kong or London) and Korean language skills are appreciated, though not, strictly speaking, prerequisite.  Korean legal employers will also want to see demonstrable ties to Korea (or at least demonstrable international interest and a compelling response to the inevitable “why Korea” question).”

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal

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