Seoul, South Korea

Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer has hired away James Lee, the former Seoul, South Korea, office head of White & Case, to be a partner in Los Angeles.

Lee focuses on cross-border business disputes, arbitration and business torts. Fluent in Korean, he also assists Korean companies with their operations abroad, including in the United States. Lee is returning to Los Angeles, where he was based until 2015. Arnold & Porter does not have a Seoul office.

In 2015, Lee helped launch White & Case’s Seoul office. Before that, he led the U.S. firm’s global Korea practice from Los Angeles and also spent time in Hong Kong. He joined White & Case in 2010 from K&L Gates.

Seoul partner Jun Hee Kim succeeds Lee as office executive partner. Kim also co-heads White & Case’s Asia-Pacific international arbitration practice with Singapore partner Matthew Secomb. He joined the firm in October 2017 from Korean shipbuilder Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., where served as general counsel, overseeing dispute resolution, compliance and legal risk management for the conglomerate and its global subsidiaries.

White & Case’s Seoul office also has two other partners: Ji Hoon Hong, who specializes in asset finance, and Kyungseok Kim, who advises on cross-border mergers and acquisitions. Hong relocated from the firm’s New York office, while Kim joined from Linklaters’ Seoul office in 2015.

The Korean legal market, which has halted its liberalization process, saw its first global firm exit  this year. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, which was among the first batch of foreign firms to enter Korea in 2012, recently closed its Seoul office and relocated its Korea practice back to Hong Kong.

Meanwhile, Shearman & Sterling received approval from the South Korean Ministry of Justice last month to open a foreign legal consultant office in Seoul. The office will have three lawyers, focusing on executing project finance transactions.

Related Stories:

White & Case Recruits Seoul Partner From Korean Conglomerate

White & Case Opens in Seoul

Seoul and Tokyo: A Tale of 2 Legal Markets