Kim & Chang, Korea’s largest law firm, will officially launch a Hong Kong office next month.
 
The 614-lawyer firm has operated a liaison office in Hong Kong for the past two-and-a-half years but has now applied for and received a foreign law practice license from the Hong Kong Law Society. Alex Yang, the U.S.-qualified lawyer who has been leading Kim & Chang’s Hong Kong presence says the firm expects to have a local partnership ready in “a couple of weeks.” Two or three associates are also expected to relocate from Seoul.
 
The firm’s move was first reported Wednesday in U.K. publication Legal Week.
 
Hong Kong will be the first overseas office for Kim & Chang. Other Korean firms like Shin & Kim and Lee & Ko have opened offices in Beijing, but Yang says the firm chose Hong Kong because of its status as the region’s top financial center.
 
“It’s a hub for a lot of international players, and Kim & Chang has a lot of clients that are coming inbound into Korea [via Hong Kong],” he says.
 
Kim & Chang’s move comes as a wave of international firms has headed into Seoul. But Yang says the firm’s move in Hong Kong is not in response to that. He explains that the firm sought a practice license to have a platform for future growth but that it has no immediate plans to shift the office from its current liaison function.
 
That means the office will continue to focus on client relationships and market intelligence rather than transactions. The firm has no plans to practice local law.
 
“I don’t think the nature of our activity is going to change significantly,” Yang says.
 
Before joining Kim & Chang in 2010, Yang was a partner in the Hong Kong office of accounting firm Ernst & Young. He was also previously an in-house lawyer Morgan Stanley & Co. His previous clients have included Korean conglomerate SK Group and the Industrial Bank of Korea.
 
Email: tbrennan@alm.com .