Korea Decides July 2016 To Open European Law Firms
As a result of the revised draft of proposed laws, the Ministry of Justice will open Korea to European and American law firms in July 2016 and March 2017, respectively.
The revised Foreign Legal Consultant Act will allow foreign firms to go into joint ventures with local practices, practice some local law and hire local lawyers. The opening for the EU and US reflects the fact that South Korea signed a free trade agreement with the EU in July 2011 and with the US eight months after that.
The legal market has gone through a three-stage approach to liberalize this venture with foreign firms in South Korea. First, foreign firms were allowed to set up representative offices, but were limited to providing consulting services on international law. Second, fee-splitting with local firms was allowed. Now, thirdly, the revised draft of the Foreign Legal Consultant Act has been submitted to implement the final stage, though there are still some restrictions on foreign law firms. An example of that is that foreign law firms are banned from owning a stake of more than 49 per cent in joint ventures in order to protect the domestic market from being taken over by established foreign legal firms.