The District’s largest law firm, Covington & Burling, plans to open an office in Seoul, South Korea, the firm announced this week.
Since December, McDermott Will & Emery, Paul Hastings, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, Ropes & Gray, Squire Sanders & Dempsey and Clifford Chance have discussed plans to head to Korea, submitting applications to Korea’s Ministry of Justice to establish foreign legal consultant offices. The trend is likely to continue as firms pursue the untapped market for legal services recently opened by the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement, which Congress approved in October.
Covington has an office in Beijing and plans to open another in Shanghai this summer. Its presence in Seoul is “part of a broader effort to build a platform for the firm in Asia,” said Timothy Hester, chair of the firm’s management committee.
Heading up the Seoul office, which firm leaders expect to open in June, will be William H.Y. Park, a corporate attorney based in Korea. Park, a Korea native, is a graduate of Stanford Law and has worked at Latham & Watkins and the Los Angeles firm Kwak, Kim & Park. He has spent the last 12 years in Korea representing companies in general corporate matters including financing transactions and contracts.
Working with Park will be Washington-based senior of counsel Daniel Spiegel, a former ambassador to the United Nations and international policy specialist.
The firm’s initial focus in Seoul will be advising Korean companies on U.S. and European laws governing intellectual property, antitrust matters, international trade and export controls. One of Covington’s largest Korean clients is Seoul-headquartered Samsung, which the firm has advised on antitrust and intellectual property issues in the United States and Europe.
“We expect the free trade agreement will promote an increased flow of business between Korea and the U.S. and additional Korean investment in the U.S.,” Hester said. “Where we see the most opportunity is being a legal adviser to Korean companies as they look outbound from Korea to their international markets.”