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Law Firms Strive For Survival, Lawyers Welcome Open Legal Market

Law Firms Strive For Survival, Lawyers Welcome Open Legal Market

Posted January. 08, 2008 08:16,   


Large-sized Law Firms Increase Employment Rate

About 973 people who passed the 37th national bar exam are to enter the job market, raising concerns over fierce competition and weak employment as the figure lingered below the all-time high record of 975 from the previous year.

However, six large-sized domestic law firms including Bae, Kim & Lee LLC and Yoon Yang Kim Shin & Yu, increased the employment figures of the new lawyers this year, shrugging off the worries over the low employment rate.

Yoon Yang Kim Shin & Yu, which used to employ 10 to 12 fresh lawyers who graduated from Judicial Research and Training Institute each year, plans to hire 25 lawyers, doubling the employment rate, year-on-year.

Bae, Kim & Lee LLC, which employed 14 lawyers in 2006 and 2007, hired 25 this year, and Lee & Ko offered jobs to 20 lawyers this year, up by 2 from the previous year. Kim & Chang, Shin & Kim, and Yulchon increased employment rate by 30 to 35 percent from last year.

Thus, the number of new lawyers hired by the six major law firms is likely to amount to 130 this year, posting a higher employment figure than last year, 93.

Such trend also appears in the status of the overall law firm industry. According to the Judicial Research and Training Institute (JRTI), the number of lawyers who found jobs immediately after graduation was 180 in 2005, 181 in 2006 and 273 in 2007.

Yang Seong-woo (33•47th bar exam), who received a job offer from Bae, Kim & Lee LLC, said, "As the law firms started to offer better treatment toward the fresh, the number of lawyers with top-notch performance evaluation at the JRTI choose to find jobs at law firms rather than courts or the prosecution.”

Effects of Opening Legal Market

Sources from the labor market analyze that the cause of such trend is "the effect of opening the legal market."

Detailed schedules of opening the legal market have been revealed following the conclusion of KORUS Free Trade Agreement, causing the domestic law firms to increase the employment to strengthen competitiveness and influencing the labor market in the legal circle as encouraging factor.

"Law firms had the jitters due to the opening of legal circle after the conclusion of the KORUS FTA," said an official from Kim & Chang. "The only way for the domestic law firms to survive now is to seek enlargement and specialization.”

When the KORUS FTA comes into effect, American law firms will be permitted to open a branch in South Korea and within two years from the enforcement, American and Korean law firms will be allowed to build partnership. Within fiver years from the enforcement, establishing a joint law firm and hiring local lawyers will be permitted.

Thus, the domestic law firms that have to compete with large American law firms have to enlarge their business to confront their competitors.

Large Number of Jobs Offered to Enterprises and Public Firms

The enterprises’ and the public firms’ plan to expand the employment figure of the FRTI relieved the burden for the reserve lawyers.

In 2001, only 14 were hired as corporate lawyers by the enterprises but the number of jobs increased steadily, reaching 55 in 2005. About 40 lawyers were hired by the enterprises in 2006 and 2007. Following the open-market trend, the enterprises are hiring more lawyers equipped with knowledge in international law.

The government offices and public institutions, such as Ministry of Labor, the Board of Audit and Inspection and Korea Consumer Agency, pay lower salaries to lawyers than the law firms, however, the job seekers scramble for the position due to the stability of the job. The number of the new hires increased steadily from 25 in 2003 to 74 in 2007.