Secondments at Baker & McKenzie Seoul office dependent on growth

Whether secondments to Baker & McKenzie’s new office in Seoul will be offered to trainees and junior solicitors is dependent on growth in that office, the firm has said.

The US firm is gearing up to open an office in the South Korean capital after beginning its application to South Korea’s Ministry of Justice earlier this week.

Following approval, which could take around six months, the new office will advise Korean clients on outbound legal matters such as acquisitions and the financing of overseas projects and enterprises, anti-trust matters and IP rights.

The office will be led by transactional partner Nam Hung Paik, who is currently based in Bakers’ Hong Kong office, though it is not yet clear how big the team will be or if there are any lateral hires in the pipeline.

A spokesperson for the firm said it “remained committed to mobility of talent, but the readiness of the Seoul office to offer an enriching experience to talent from other offices will depend on how it grows in the years to come. As and when it is ready and allowed to do so, the Seoul office, like any other office of the Firm, will consider mobility applications.”

US firms have been jostling to launch a Seoul base ever since South Korea’s Free Trade Agreement with the US opened up the legal sector earlier this year (19 March 2012).

Those to receive approval so far include K&L Gates and O’Melveny & Myers (15 November 2012), Covington & Burling (1 November 2012), Paul Hastings (25 September 2012) and McDermott Will & Emery.

In addition to applying to the MoJ for permission to open an office, firms wishing to enter South Korea must also get an office head approved as a foreign legal consultant by the MoJ and local bar association. The approved lawyer can then apply for the licence on behalf of his or her firm.

Earlier this year Bakers opened an office in Casablanca with a four-lawyer team from French firm August & Debouzy (25 July 2012).