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Not enough British-educated Korean lawyers

In this interesting piece, the Asian Lawyer reports the lack of Koreans in Britain, and in particular, those who read law, is preventing the British law firms from opening in Seoul, despite the FTA ratification between EU and South Korea.

Freshfields still does not have sufficient Korean lawyers–he says the core group is just him and one associate. He is skeptical whether it is wise for British firms to try to fill the gap with partners who have no Korean heritage. He thinks lawyers who do not speak the language and do not know Korean culture may have a hard time forging strong relationships in the market

I can think of so many comments.

“Koreans just tend to want to study in the U.S. rather than in the U.K.,” he says. “It might be because the ‘American dream’ thing strikes a chord with young Koreans.”

The real, major reason is that traditionally countries like Britain just was not an immigration destination in the same sense, most of the Korean population comprises of 주재원 Jujaewon families (those who are sent by the company on a 3-5 year post) and some rich students, some of whom chose to stay behind.

Anyway, congratulations for those who did become the sought-after.

  • cm

    So why don’t they just hire Korean Americans? They speak the same language. This piece makes no sense at all.

  • holterbarbour

    Because if you’re going to qualify as a Foreign Legal Consultant representing a foreign law firm, you have to have been licensed in the territory where that foreign law firm is based. Simply, only American-licensed lawyers can represent American law firms, and only EU-licensed lawyers can represent EU firms.

  • cm

    Oh, I see.

    And they said Korean is a useless language to learn.

  • Arghaeri

    Freshfields has been here what one month!!

  • Arghaeri

    Well Holerharner they obviously not looking I know koreans quailfied in uk

  • Arghaeri

    not only that bit they are the ones provinding the european expertise, they can employ korean americans for the transition just as most of the korean legal outfits do…

  • iMe

    #3
    korean isn’t completely useless. but having studied francaise for 6 years, i know french is.

  • http://adamsawry.wordpress.com Adams-awry

    iMe, you must be a piss-poor student, or you’d know there’s no ‘e’ on Francais.

  • MrMao

    Anecdotally, back at university X in Seoul there were NO faculty members without US degrees. I just finished a law degree in England, and in my class of 500 there were no Koreans. But there were a couple of Chinese, and there were hundreds of them in other faculties with lower language requirements than law. UK degrees still have cachet in China, but Korea is fused to the US ‘like lips and teeth.’ Frankly, this is only going to get worse for firms like Freshfields because the Tories just killed the Post-Study Work visa that might have allowed graduates to stay in the UK long enough to do training contracts after their LPCs. The only Koreans who will now be able to stay in the country long enough to qualify will be those who are already dual-citizens and I suspect they won’t be in rush to return to Korea. So you have a firm based in an increasingly inward-looking country wondering why it can’t set up in the country that invented the term ‘inward-looking country.’ Shocker.

    Adams

    I always preferred studying les francaises to le francais.

  • http://gypsyscholarship.blogspot.com/ jefferyhodges

    And let’s not forget la cédille on le français . . .

    Jeffery Hodges

    * * *

  • MrMao

    PS: Yes, a recent Korean graduate of an English law school might be able to convince a firm to sponsor them for a work-visa during their training contract but they are going to have to step over every Oxbridge/Russell Group graduate with a UK/EU passport and a first-class degree to do so, convince the firm that they won’t be a flight risk after the TC and live with being tied to their employer for the number of years (5?) it will take for them to get whatever the British call permanent resident/Green Card status. That’s not impossible, but it’s getting there.

  • MrMao

    Jeffery, I would but this honky keyboard ain’t got that feature.

  • Arghaeri

    PS: Yes, a recent Korean graduate of an English law school might be able to convince a firm to sponsor them for a work-visa during their training contract but they are going to have to step over every Oxbridge/Russell Group graduate with a UK/EU passport and a first-class degree

    Theres no might about it,, its already been done.

    And companies like Freshfields who are trying to break in the korean market would obviously be interested in such a sponsorship.

  • dogbertt

    So why don’t they just hire Korean Americans? They speak the same language. This piece makes no sense at all.

    Most Korean Americans I knew in the field had not mastered Korean legal vocabulary to a significant extent. Perhaps it’s different nowadays.

  • MrMao

    Arghaeri

    I know it’s been done, but the removal of the PSW will make it even harder in future. You’re talking about a Korean with only a Korean passport who manages to spend 5-6 years in the UK with the goal of returning home for a company like Freshfields. They will also have to be able to demonstrate their skill to the company by getting stellar grades in first year in order to get summer work placements where they’ll have to demonstrate their worth. I’ve hardly been to every law school in Britain, but I would say these effortlessly bilingual Koreans who are in the top 5% of their law classes after first year and who already know that they want to be back in Seoul in 5-6 years are a niche market already and that these new immigration rules are going to restrict that market even more.

    http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21564841-britain%E2%80%99s-immigration-policy-crippling-business-and-economy-wake-up-mr-cameron

  • MrMao

    From the Asian Lawyer:
    ‘and have practiced there for at least three years’

    Wow. So it’s three years for a degree (2 maybe if you’ve already got a degree and do an accelerated degree in England- the GDL isn’t recognized outside the UK), then one for an LPC, two for a TC and then three years practicing. That’s nine years that a Korean has to spend in David Beckham-land with the goal of returning home. And the rules on student visas get tighter all the time. And they killed the PSW. And Koreans who study law abroad ‘invariably head to America.’ I just don’t see Freshfields getting all that many people fitting that profile for its Seoul office. I’m not saying they shouldn’t try, and I’m sure they have the money and reputation to do it- but I think this is a case of wait and see.

  • Arghaeri

    Ot seems that requirement is only for Chief representatives Mr Mao, so no obvious reason not to appoint a head of practise then hire korean-americans to put the bums on seats

  • Arghaeri

    BTW regarding your timescale under a TC they are arguably practising, accordingly is it clear that the TC cannot be counted towards the three years?

  • Arghaeri

    Interesting on the PSW (had to look it up), but I’m pretty sure this is kneejerk stuff in Beckham land and there will soon be “corrections” lobbied for to allow key talent to train there.

  • MrMao

    Good point on the chief reps. Korean-Americans certainly didn’t seem to be over-represented where I went, but it wasn’t Oxbridge. Yeah, the PSW might come back in some form. This is an interesting piece on the Tories’ schizophrenic immigration policies:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/31/gangmasters-exploit-flexible-workforce

  • MrMao

    On a TC, they can call themselves a junior solicitor and I don’t know if the Koreans would call this practicing. They certainly aren’t registered with the SRA as anything more than that until the two years are up.

  • iMe

    Adams-Awry,
    vous êtes un nazi orthographe.

  • MrMao

    Arghaeri

    Hang on, this statement:

    hire korean-americans to put the bums on seats

    Doesn’t jibe with this one:

    Simply, only American-licensed lawyers can represent American law firms, and only EU-licensed lawyers can represent EU firms.

    So we’re talking about Korean-Americans who do law degrees in England with the goal of relocating to Seoul in order to work for an English firm. Who are these people, and how do they stay in the UK long enough to qualify without UK passports? Why wouldn’t these people do a law degree in America (their country of origin), even and especially if their dream is to make it back to Seoul (where they might not speak the language)? I know this sounds like harping, but it still doesn’t add up to me. I might be projecting a little bit about my own failure to really make a go of it in England, I hope you don’t mind.

  • holterbarbour

    #23: If you’re a US-licensed lawyer, you don’t need to be a UK citizen to become a solicitor; you basically need to be a member of a state bar on the SRA’s list (some states–like CT, where I’m licensed–are not on that list) and sit for the exams. More information on this at http://www.sra.org.uk/qlts/ .

  • Arghaeri

    Not sure I know them, but i do not know the rules for the EU-korea rules under which they may practise in Korea. The article clearly refers to Chief Representatives not the bums on seats, giving the example of Clifford Chance who had to bring in a Brit from China as head of practise while a korean seems to be still running things. So doesn’t look like only EU lawyers can represent them.

  • Arghaeri

    Anyways most of the big lawyer firms are set up in US and Europe, so can’t they represent the US part and use US lawyers?

  • Arghaeri

    BTW a Korean-American could qualify in the US then try UK and get licensed there without the full period…. so it would be feasible to get some KA’s over to UK in the same pracctise and then move them on again once dual-qualified…

  • Arghaeri

    But yes looks difficult, but hey complaining about it is like complaining portugues lawyers have an advantage in brazil or mozambique

  • holterbarbour

    #28: I’m straying a bit perhaps, but Brazil is even more protective of its legal market than Korea. DLA Piper is more or less one and the same with Campos Mello in Brazil, but local bar regulations forbid Campos Mello from even putting “in cooperation with DLA Piper” on their business cards (instead they use an almost identical logotype, emblem, and a unique one-corner-rounded shape for their business cards). Foreign firms aren’t welcome in Brazil.

  • MrMao

    Hotelbarbour
    - I wasn’t saying that was a problem, I was saying that the cancellation of the Post Study Work visa programme will mean that the only way to get through an LLB, an LPC and a TC is by getting an English firm to sponsor a foreigner for a training contract when this foreigner is in the penultimate year of an LLB (or maybe during their LPC, but this is harldy ideal and unlikely to succeed). This will also probably mean that this foreigner will have to have obtained summer places after first and second year. This foreigner will have to obtain all of these positions over and above gajillions of Brits and Euros who are less of a flight risk. This foreigner also does not get to go home during their degree, because they want to integrate themselves as much as possible into English legal culture.

    Arghaeri

    Those are some very creative solutions you’ve got there. I am not complaining about it and really have no opinion about this either way because Korea is over for me, it just doesn’t add up.

  • MrMao

    Oh yeah, and since the big English firms postponed all of their training contracts when the economy exploded in 2008 by a full year all of those trainee solicitors got delayed by a year. I am not sure what year training contracts are on offer for right now, but there is still a one-year backlog in the system. So any Korean-Americans/actual Koreans/people who just look Korean/white guys who want to be Korean who are in English law schools now or are about to start won’t even be starting training contracts until…2015? 2016? They might make it to Seoul by 2018 or so.

  • MrMao

    I am aware that people who are smart, persistent and attractive enough to jump through all of these hoops deserve a lot of credit and that their training contracts are probably fully-sponsored by their firms and have not historically depended upon whether or not they had a PSW (although I am sort of curious just which category of immigrant these people would fall under on the Home Office scale- ever-changing as it is).

  • Arghaeri

    Hi Mao, I don’t know why you keep talking about big disadvantage over euros, and flight risks.

    For international firms having a mix of nationalities is a plus, for exactly the reason the article was complaing about. as far as the flight risk, what flight risk, they are paud under a traiming contract for the work they do, if they leave early payment will stop just as any other job. The legal firms get value and sime will quit not liking the lifestyle regardless of nationality. In fact someone who has spent a good portion of their life in a foreign country already dedicated to getting the qualifications to stay and train in the legal profession is probably a very good bet.

  • Arghaeri

    As for imaginative solutions why so? International Legal firms often cross-transfer staff across the pond to help on cross atlantic issues for two-three year or more postings.

  • MrMao

    It was a compliment, you’ve shown you know a lot about staffing. I just wonder about the success rates of UK/EU citizens and those of non-EU citizens when trying to get training contracts. I didn’t try to get one in England, but I know a couple of Canadians who did. It’s not impossible, but it’s a big commitment to spending a long time in a foreign country. Having already done that in Korea, I backed out. Good luck to those who do. Thanks.