The surprise milestone reached on 2 April, with what appears to be provisional agreement on the US Free Trade Agreement, could also benefit law firms operating in the UK, but the dust is still settling. As became clear last year, no progress was going to be made on opening up the Korean legal market until after KORUS FTA was concluded. But the draft proposals on the table in the form of the Legal Consultants Bill don’t really represent much of an opening.
Reports of the contents of KORUS, however, indicate that US law firms might be able to bypass the restrictive bill. LegalWeek reported that the FTA envisages a five year transition period at the end of which US law firms will be able to hire local lawyers and effectively act on a par with the local Korean law firms. This would presumably mean that firms in the UK which are part of an international network including the US may be able to use their US partnership to get a toehold in Korea independently of the Consultants Bill.
Next on the agenda is an EU / Korea FTA negotiation process (who knows how long that will take?), which could make the Consultants Bill increasingly irrelevant.
Thanks to Louise for the clipping.
- LegalWeek article