Industry by the Numbers

Under the KORUS FTA, the Korean legal market is opening to U.S. law firms, providing those firms with expanded opportunities.  By allowing U.S. firms to open offices in Korea, the free trade agreement establishes a new level of cooperation between the two countries and enables U.S. law firms to be an integral part of Korea’s continued growth.

  • U.S. firms may open offices in Korea, providing advice on U.S. and international law to Korean individuals and companies.
  • Two years after the agreement enters into force, firms may form alliances with Korean firms or enter into cooperative agreements to provide advice on Korean law.
  • After five years, U.S. firms may establish joint ventures with Korean firms and employ Korean lawyers qualified to practice Korean domestic law.

Recognizing the opportunities the agreement has presented, many major U.S. law firms have announced plans to establish satellite offices in Korea, staffed with U.S.-trained attorneys. Their reasoning for going into Korea has been made quite clear:

“We plan to have our application as soon as the process begins. Being present there [in Korea] helps you be a market leader.”
Greg Nitzkowski, Managing Partner, Paul Hastings

The agreement will give U.S. firms access to the dynamic and growing market in Korea and enhance bilateral investment opportunities, making it easier for Korean companies to navigate investment opportunities in the U.S. and for U.S. companies to navigate investment opportunities in in Korea.

“We expect the free trade agreement will increase the flow of business between Korea and the U.S., spur additional Korean investment in the United States and benefit both countries. Where we see the most opportunity is being a legal adviser to Korean companies as they look outbound from Korea to international markets.”
Timothy Hester, Chair of Covington & Burling LLP’s Management Committee

Because of their language abilities, cultural understanding and professional expertise, the agreement could be especially beneficial for Korean American lawyers who will find increased job opportunities because of the partnerships between U.S. and Korean law firms.

“First, the demand for Korean-American U.S. lawyers will increase at U.S. law firms and companies. Second, the demand and prestige of Korean-American U.S. lawyers at Korean law firms in Seoul will be elevated as Korean law firms compete with U.S. law firms for international legal work. Third, the need for Korean administrative and legal support personnel at U.S. law firms and companies will be generated for Koreans in the United States and in Korea.”
Grace Parke Fremlin, Co-Chair of the Korea Practice and Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLP