CHICAGO AND NEW YORK (February 14, 2012) — Following a careful, strategic review, McDermott Will & Emery announced today its decision to open a new office in Seoul, South Korea. In so doing, McDermott becomes one of the very first Western law firms to expand its network into South Korea, following the recent loosening of restrictions that prevented U.S. law firms from operating in that country.
The move coincides with the entry into force of the historic U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement. The Agreement, which was negotiated in 2006 and 2007, and was recently ratified by the U.S. and Korean legislatures last fall, will allow, for the first time, foreign law firms to open offices and practice law in South Korea.
McDermott’s Korea Practice Group, led by In-Young Lee, has deep roots working with Korean businesses and Korean government agencies. For over 30 years, McDermott has represented Korean, U.S. and multinational businesses on their inbound and outbound commercial activities worldwide. Members of the group have studied and trained in Korea and, accordingly, have a substantial knowledge of the legal and business culture of Korea. Looking toward the future, McDermott recently hired one of the lead negotiators of that agreement, Jay Eizenstat, to help grow its Korean practice. Mr. Eizenstat was previously a trade negotiator in the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) from 2003-2008.
“McDermott’s office in Seoul represents a strategic alignment of opportunities for the Firm,” said Jeffrey E. Stone, co-chair of McDermott Will & Emery, based in Chicago. “Korea is a vibrant economic market, but one where, due to legal restrictions, there has been little international law firm presence to date. Moreover, it is a market where McDermott already enjoys brand recognition following our 30 years of work there. Most importantly, it presents opportunities that are powerfully aligned with many of our strongest practices and growth aspirations. We believe we are on the leading edge of what promises to be a wave of new activity in South Korea.”
Within South Korea, McDermott has strong relationships with many leading law firms and other professional service firms. Firm lawyers also have extensive familiarity with Korea’s business, culture and legal system and with helping clients bridge the cultural and legal divide between Korea and the United States. Unlike many other international law firms, McDermott has long worked with Korean clients across a broad range of practices, including transactions (mergers & acquisitions), intellectual property, international trade, antitrust, financing, restructuring and litigation matters. The new McDermott office will continue to focus in these areas.
“The new McDermott office in Seoul will focus almost exclusively on work that is outbound from Korea,” said In-Young Lee, partner and head of McDermott’s Korea Practice Group. “Under the model we have adopted, any work inbound to Korea will be handled in close consultation with local Korean firms, where McDermott can serve as a referral and cultural resource for our Western clients. We do not seek to provide any Korean law advice to any clients—internal or external. There is simply no need for us to seek to compete in the local marketplace.”
“Our ability to put forward a New York-style practice distinguishes McDermott in the Korea marketplace,” said Peter J. Sacripanti, co-chair of McDermott Will & Emery, based in New York. “Lawyers in McDermott’s Korea practice operate with a fully integrated model that leverages the rest of McDermott’s resources – both in New York and around the world. Our partners understand the key concerns and points of view of both parties in a transaction – whether they be in the U.S. or in Korea – and can offer unique solutions that move a deal from the negotiating table to final closing.”
In 2011, McDermott completed the latest in a long line of cross-border deals involving Korean companies with the landmark $1.2 billion acquisition by Fila Korea Ltd. and Mirae Asset Private Equity (Mirae) of the Acushnet golf business and its Titleist, Pinnacle and Foot Joy brands from Fortune Brands, Inc. (NYSE:FO). For this work, McDermott received the “Transaction of the Year” award in the Consumer and Retail Products category by The M&A Advisor and the "Best Korea Deal 2011" award by FinanceAsia magazine. It was the first time a Korean private equity firm acquired a leading global brand and the largest acquisition of a global consumer brand by any Korean company to date.
About McDermott Will & Emery
McDermott Will & Emery is a premier international law firm with a diversified business practice. Numbering more than 1,000 lawyers, the Firm has offices in Boston, Brussels, Chicago, Düsseldorf, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Miami, Milan, Munich, New York, Orange County, Paris, Rome, Silicon Valley and Washington, D.C., and a close strategic alliance with MWE China Law Offices in Shanghai.