Legal Business Blogs

Big four pacesetter A&O maintains expansive form to launch in much-hyped Seoul

Global firms continue to pile into South Korea with Allen & Overy (A&O) the latest to announce it will launch an office in Seoul as the firm aims to offer clients antitrust, arbitration and IP advice, alongside the traditional projects, capital markets and M&A.

The office, which opens with immediate effect, will be headed by energy and project finance partner Matthias Voss, who will work alongside energy and projects partner Jean Lee and counsel Kyu Bang.

The new base will service Korean companies, quasi-sovereigns and financial institutions, although the firm said it has already served clients in Seoul for the last 30 years. Voss highlighted the jurisdiction’s strategic importance thanks to its import and export business flows.

‘The strength of inbound and outbound trade flows are why we have been working with clients here for over three decades,’ he said. ‘[Establishing a presence] will also enable us to continue to broaden the scope of work we offer our clients, not just in projects, capital markets and M&A but also in areas such as such as antitrust, arbitration and IP.’

Wim Dejonghe, global managing partner, added: ‘The product and sector expertise offered by Matthias and Jean, supported by Kyu, will enable us to tap into the huge opportunities to work for Korean clients across a number of sectors, particularly energy and infrastructure.’

Under the terms of the regulatory approvals, A&O will not offer local Korean law advice and will continue to work with local relationship firms.

Other firms also show an interest in South Korea recently include Latham & Watkins, which in May was considering a Seoul launch as part of its Asia strategy review.

After the South Korea legal market liberalised, Seoul has seen an influx of law firms in recent years with Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy launching in the city earlier this year following the likes of Linklaters, Clifford Chance, DLA Piper and Herbert Smith Freehills in establishing a base in one of Asia’s fastest growing economies.

Amid a difficult period for the upper echelons of the UK legal industry, A&O has been one of the standout performers over the last five years, growing revenues by 22% to £1.28bn since 2010.

For more on Allen & Overy’s recent performance, see Case study: Allen & Overy from our latest Legal Business 100 report (£)