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Asia calling: Bird & Bird launches in South Korea as Taylor Wessing and Allen & Gledhill expand Asia footprint

Bird & Bird has joined a host of international law firms looking to enhance their global footprint with a cooperation agreement in Asia’s fourth largest economy, tying up with South Korean firm Hwang Mok Park (HMP).

Announced today (25 February), the top 20 firm said the aim is to focus on helping clients in industry sectors where technology and regulation are driving change.

Founded in 1993, HMP is acknowledged by the Legal 500 as third-tier in antitrust and competition, banking and finance, corporate and M&A, disputes, employment, and insurance.

Bird & Bird, meanwhile, which currently has a presence in Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong, and Singapore through its global association with ATMD Bird & Bird, is, the 966-lawyer firm said, ‘experiencing a period of rapid growth in the Asia Pacific region.’

Bird & Bird’s chief executive David Kerr said: ‘We are impressed with their track record in Korea, where they have a strong base of multinational clients and a broad portfolio of interesting work. We have experienced a significant increase in client demand in the region and this agreement reflects our plans to develop an integrated Asia-Pacific offering.’

Chairman of the firm’s Asian region Justin Walkey added that ‘Korea’s advanced, technology-driven economy is a natural fit for Bird & Bird.’

Bird & Bird expanded its presence Asia Pacific presence last March, having signed a cooperation agreement with Sydney-based digital-economy law firm Truman Hoyle.

Its most recent limited liability partnership accounts for the 2012/13 financial year show that its overdraft facility rose 55% to €21m from €13.6m in 2011/12, while net debt was up 20% from €22.6m to €27.1m during that period.

Other firms to launch recently in South Korean include Linklaters, Clifford Chance, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

Last week, Baker & McKenzie made a further strategic push into Asia, becoming the latest global player to launch an office in Myanmar. Confirmed last Tuesday (18 February), the firm said the launch of a branch in the city of Yangon was to be led by infrastructure and corporate partner Chris Hughes, who is currently based in Sydney.

Last week also saw Taylor Wessing’s Singapore arm, RHTLaw Taylor Wessing expand its regional footprint with an exclusive tie-up with PBC Partners in Vietnam, which currently has offices in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The arrangement will give RHTLaw access to 22 legal professionals in Vietnam. That tie-up comes only four months after RHTLaw announced its cooperation agreement with Indonesian law firm, Hanafiah Ponggawa and Partners.

Meanwhile, leading Singapore law firm Allen & Gledhill has also entered the Southeast Asian market by launching associate firm Allen & Gledhill (Myanmar), which came into force on 4 February. Headed by the former chief executive of the Singapore international arbitration centre, partner Minn Naing Oo, the launch follows the establishment of associate firm, Allen & Gledhill (Laos) in Vientiane in 2013.

The launches come after Jones Day confirmed this month its intentions to open an office in Perth in April this year, a region it described as ‘the mining and energy centre of Australia,’, with the hire of Allens Linklaters construction and energy litigation partner Stephen McComish.

Jones Day’s managing partner Stephen Brogan said the firm ‘continues to believe in the growing importance of Australia to the advancement of the global economy.

‘In the next decade, Western Australia in particular will play a critical role in supplying the energy and other commodity needs of Asia. If economic advancement is to benefit the largest number of people in Asia, then access to Australia’s resources will be essential,’ Brogan added.