The Firms

December 7, 2011 7:52 PM

Sheppard Mullin Latest Firm to Set Sights on South Korea

Posted by Brian Baxter

Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton has become the latest firm to state its Seoul aspirations,  announcing Wednesday that it plans to open an office in South Korea's capital city sometime in the first quarter of 2012.

Byoung Soo "Seth" Kim, a finance and bankruptcy partner who works out of the firm's New York and Los Angeles offices and heads its Korea practice, will relocate to Seoul to lead the new office.

"Many of our clients have operations in Korea and it makes sense for us to establish a presence in Seoul to provide the support and guidance that our clients require," said Sheppard Mullin chairman Guy Halgren in a statement announcing the move. "Opening an office in Korea marks a natural expansion of our greater Asia practice, which includes offices in Shanghai and Beijing."

The firm's move into South Korea follows the long-awaited passage of a free trade agreement with the United States in late November. The first Am Law 100 firm to say annyong to South Korea was Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton, which announced shortly after Thanksgiving that it will open its own office in Seoul early next year.

Other firms, including Paul Hastings, McDermott Will & Emery, Ropes & Gray, and Simpson Thacher & Bartlett, are also expected to open in South Korea after completion of an application process with South Korean regulators.

Sheppard Mullin's Korean clients include such companies as Samsung, Hyundai Motor, Korea Development Bank, Kookmin Bank, Hana Bank, Woori Bank, and Shinhan Bank, according to the firm's press release announcing its upcoming presence in South Korea.

Kim, the partner heading to Seoul, specializes in entertainment and commercial law, bankruptcy, bank regulatory matters, and bank acquisition transactions. He will work closely with U.S.–based partners Gary Halling and Kenneth Carl as part of Sheppard Mullin's Korea team.

In opening the new office, the firm is entering what has been a hot market for deals recently.

Among those transactions: Dallas-based private equity firm Lone Star Funds's announcement last week that it has finalized the $3.5 billion sell-off of Korea Exchange Bank to Seoul-based Hana Financial Group. That deal came on the heels of private equity giant Apollo Global Management’s $772 million sale of Midland, Texas-based Parallel Petroleum to South Korean buyers.

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