Herbert Smith Freehills will close Seoul office

24 February 2023

Herbert Smith Freehills will close Seoul office

Herbert Smith Freehills will close Seoul office

HSF will form Korea Group led from Hong Kong and London to ‘maintain local relationships’.

Herbert Smith Freehills has announced it will close its Seoul office, stating that it has determined “[its] clients’ interests are now best served by a new approach.”

“We have built a respected roster of Korean public, private, energy and financial sector clients for whom the firm has acted on important cross-border transactions and disputes,” the firm said in a statement.

Believing an on-the-ground presence is no longer its best choice, HSF said it would “wind down” its physical presence in Seoul this year.

The firm’s Seoul office has been led by dispute resolution specialists Mike McClure and Dana Kim. Kim, a partner, will relocate to Hong Kong; her practice focuses on cross-border disputes including arbitration, litigation, mediation, and other forms of dispute resolution, particularly in the technology, energy, finance and construction sectors. McClure will relocate to London.

McClure and Kim will lead the HSF’s new Korea Group. “Our existing and new Korean clients will continue to receive high-quality legal service through this new model of service, and we look forward to maintaining strong local firm relationships,” the firm said in a statement.

While some of the firm’s Seoul staff will relocate to other network offices, others will leave the firm. Former HSF partner Philip Kim joined Watson Farley & Williams earlier this month upon that firm’s launch of a new Seoul office.

The firm created its Seoul presence in 2013 after the 2011 signing of Free Trade Agreements between South Korea and the United States and South Korea and the European Union under which allowed U.S. and European firms to open offices in South Korea.

The closure is the latest of foreign firms closing their Seoul offices, following the exits of Clifford Chance, McDermott Will & Emery and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett in 2018 and 2019. But other firms still see opportunity in the South Korean capital. On February 1, 2023, Watson Farley & Williams announced it would open an office in Seoul, while in November 2022, Ashurst said it would launch a joint venture in South Korea.

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