McDermott Will & Emery has unveiled plans to open an office in Seoul, following South Korea’s lifting of barriers to foreign law firm entry last year.
Chicago-based McDermott plans to establish the office in early spring. Partners In-Young Lee and Paul Kim–both currently based in New York–will staff the office along with an associate, while other lawyers from the firm’s corporate, intellectual property, antitrust, and litigation practices will be based in the office part-time under a rotation system.
The new Seoul office will focus exclusively on outbound investment by Korean clients, while inbound work will be referred to Korean firms, according to a McDermott statement. The firm’s experience in the country includes acting for Fila Korea and a Korean private-equity house in their $1.2 billion buyout of Fortune Brands’ golf equipment business in 2011.
The firm’s decision to enter Korea comes after the country ratified a free trade agreement with the U.S. in November. The deal eases restrictions for foreign law firms, which were previously barred from having offices in the country. Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton; Simpson Thacher & Bartlett; and Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton have all formally announced plans to open in the Korean capital. Paul Hastings and Ropes & Gray have also both said they would like to have a presence there.
U.K. firms are also permitted to open offices in Korea under a separate EU-Korea trade deal. However, none has yet announced plans to do so.
McDermott recently boosted its Korea practice in Washington, D.C. with the hire of Jay Eizenstat, who was one of the key negotiators of the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement during his five years in the Office of the United States Trade Representative. He left that post in 2008 to join Miller & Chevalier as an of counsel, before moving to McDermott as a partner last month.