US law firms line up to enter South Korean legal market

December 29, 2011 Law firms looking to expand into South Korea – after a trade deal with the US opened the country’s legal market to foreign firms – will be on the lookout for signs of regional instability after the death of North Korean leader Kim Jong Il.

"We will monitor the situation, but I will say it has not at all changed our interest in this active and vibrant economy," said Jeffrey Stone, co-chairman of McDermott Will & Emery, which is considering a launch in the capital, Seoul.

New York's Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton has plans to open in Seoul in the first half of 2012, while Los Angeles-based Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton intends to launch the first quarter of 2012, and New York's Simpson Thacher & Bartlett plans to open a Seoul office "as soon as practicable" in 2012.

Firms that have expressed interest in opening in Seoul include Paul Hastings, Ropes & Gray and McDermott Will & Emery.

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