Late last year, as Simpson Thacher & Bartlett decided to pull out of South Korea, Seoul office head Youngjin Sohn could have gone to another global firm. But after practicing at Wall Street firms his entire legal career, Sohn ended up deciding to be a partner at Kim & Chang, Korea’s largest law firm by any measure.

Sohn’s move was significant for the Korean lateral market, according to Laurie Lebrun, a Tokyo-based partner at legal recruiter Major, Lindsey & Africa. “I see this as a potentially important shift,” said Lebrun, who has also placed lawyers for international firms in Seoul since the Korean legal market liberalization in 2011, adding that senior lawyers at top international firms may now view top Korean firms as a serious career option.

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