An enhanced 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 has said. It was responding to a consultation on the government’s trade negotiations with the Republic of Korea.

’Upcoming trade negotiations with South Korea provide an opportunity to remove barriers to market access for UK lawyers and law firms,’ said Society president Lubna Shuja. She noted that Seoul 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.’

This year’s review of the UK agreement ’provides a unique opportunity to address these issues and push for further liberalisation’, she said. ’The UK should take full advantage of this to press for ambitious provisions on legal services.’

In its response, the Society urges the government to 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,’ Shuja said.

’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,’ she added.

The government said the new deal with the world’s largest economy will build on the existing £14.3 billion trading relationship and meet the specific needs of the UK. ’This will include important areas such as digital trade, enhanced climate provisions and further support for small and medium sized businesses.’

Law Gazette

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