UK-South Korea trade talks could liberalise legal market

An enhanced UK-South Korea free trade agreement (FTA) could liberalise the Korean legal market for UK solicitors and usher in a new era of joint practice between lawyers from the two countries, the Law Society of England and Wales said today in response to a consultation on the government’s trade negotiations.

“Upcoming trade negotiations with South Korea provide an opportunity to remove barriers to market access for UK lawyers and law firms,” said Law Society President Lubna Shuja.

“South Korea has already somewhat liberalised its legal services market through its trade agreements with the UK*, EU, US and Australia.

“However, it has implemented its commitments narrowly and has not satisfactorily addressed the issue of joint practice between Korean and foreign lawyers, meaning that the market has yet to fully open.

“The review of the UK agreement in 2023 provides a unique opportunity to address these issues and push for further liberalisation. The UK should take full advantage of this to press for ambitious provisions on legal services.”

Lubna Shuja added: “We believe the UK government should push for greater rights for UK lawyers operating in Korea to partner with, employ or be employed by Korean lawyers – in line with the rights afforded to Korean lawyers operating in the UK.

“Here, Korean lawyers can provide legal advice permanently or temporarily and they can employ, be employed and partner with solicitors – both in UK law firms and in branch offices of Korean law firms.

“They can also requalify as solicitors in England and Wales via the Solicitors Qualifying Exam. In benefiting from these provisions, Korean law firms contribute to the UK’s economy and increase trade with foreign countries.

“Removing burdensome requirements for UK lawyers in Korea, providing greater fly-in fly-out rights and more rights to provide services digitally would help generate more opportunities for the Korean as well as the UK legal sector.

“We look forward to continuing to work with the British government and our Korean counterparts to advance a more ambitious agreement that will create new opportunities for our members.”

Notes to editor

* The provisions of the 2011 EU agreement were rolled over into the UK continuity agreement of 2021.

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