SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — Korea is expected to implement the third stage of law market reforms permitting the establishment of joint venture law firms between local firms and foreign law firms according to free trade agreements with the European Union and the United States.
The Ministry of Justice announced on August 4 that it had submitted a revised bill of the Foreign Legal Consultant Act to the National Assembly. The revision contains the third stage of legal market reforms, including a provision allowing for the establishment of joint law firms.
According to the revised bill, joint venture law firms can hire Korean lawyers and foreign legal consultants and offer legal services related to foreign laws and a limited range of domestic laws.
However, joint venture law firms cannot handle domestic law related businesses such as litigation, government affairs, authentication, labor, intellectual property, registration and inheritance, according to the FTAs.
Law firms establishing joint ventures must be in operation for more than three years, and hire five or more lawyers with more than five years of experience. Foreign law firms can hold up to 49 percent of voting rights, to protect Korean law firms. To protect Korean legal consumers, both domestic and foreign law firms will have unlimited responsibilities.
In addition, the revised bill allows foreign lawyers to come to Korea temporarily for international mediation cases.
The ministry gathered opinions from 10 lawyers and legal academics to prepare the revised bill. It benchmarked the gradual opening of Singapore’s legal market, a successful example of legal market reforms.
The third phase of legal market reforms will be implemented five years after the enactment of the FTA treaties, in July 2016 for the Kor-EU FTA and March 2017 for Kor-US FTA.
An official from the ministry said, “This is not the wholesale opening or final opening but the third stage of opening or partial opening according to the FTAs. In accordance with the changes in the legal market, additional reforms can be considered later.
By John Choi (firstname.lastname@example.org)