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8 [Legal Times July Issue] ‘Fastest Growing Law Firm’ SEHAN LLC 2013-07-22

Despite the cold spell on the evening of March 21, SEHAN LLC (“SEHAN”), located in Golden Tower on Seoul’ s Samsung-ro, Gangnam-gu, welcomed a large crowd of guests ranging from lawyers to corporate representatives at its opening ceremony. At this event, Na Seung-chul, President of the Seoul Bar Association, delivered the congratulatory address. Hundreds of guests, mostly representatives from major law firms, corporations, and financial institutions, were present to celebrate the law firm’s opening. Representatives of major foreign law firms with Seoul offices also attended the event. Many also expressed their congratulations and joy through numerous floral wreaths.
On its invitation for the opening ceremony, SEHAN encouraged guests to send “rice wreaths” instead of the conventional floral wreaths. The firm received 2 tons of rice in total and donated them to Sarang Welfare Center and Seoul SOS Children’s Village. Guests applauded the firm for joyfully starting off on a charitable note.

Since its foundation, SEHAN has been in the spotlight because it has been recruiting capable attorneys with great expertise and growing into a formidable firm at an

astounding rate. Initially, the firm started with about 30 attorneys but by the end of June, three months after its founding, it had expanded to a size of 50 attorneys. If a study were to be done on the growth of law firms according to the consistent growth in a firm’s number of cases and tasks, it would not be an exaggeration to say that SEHAN would be at the top of this list as the industry’s “One of the Fastest Growing Law Firm”.

Approaching a Team of 50 Attorneys

 “In fact, we were not without worry [at the beginning], [however] now, three months since the firm’s launching, we have surpassed our initial target goal,” said Youngcheon Song, Managing Partner. “Each sector of the firm is lacking manpower so we are continually recruiting more associate lawyers.” Owing to the firm’s success, the office, overlooking Seolleung on the highest floor of Golden Tower, did not have the atmosphere of a newly opened law firm but instead was filled with the hustle and bustle of an established firm.

 Since the launching of the firm, for the past three months SEHAN has accepted 500 new cases and at the beginning of June the firm made an announcement that it was recruiting additional associates that would be able to start working immediately. This announcement was made because existing partners and attorneys felt limitations on the amount of work they could successfully handle. According to a SEHAN representative, the firm was surprised by the interest shown in the announcement as over 60 applications, including those from established large-size law firms, were submitted.

60 Applicants for Openings for Experience Lawyers

 Having heard from many people that SEHAN has been showing impressive movement recently, the reporter (of this article) visited the firm’s website (www.sehanlaw.com). The website showcased over 40 comprehensive profiles of the SEHAN attorneys and introduced the different fields of work the attorneys are involved in such as general and financial corporate law, litigation ? arbitration, tax law, criminal law and intellectual property law. According to one SEHAN attorney, there were still lawyers whose profiles had not yet been uploaded to the site and a considerable number of lawyers whose involvement in the firm was still being discussed. The attorney also explained that in the case of partner-level attorneys, the possibility of overlapping fields of work with existing partners and the effects of synergy had to be taken into account; therefore, the firm was also controlling the pace at which they recruited new partners.

 In short, with the continued integration of partner-level attorneys, SEHAN is a freshly established law firm that has been rapidly differentiating and growing; there is a clear, distinct reason why SEHAN has had such a successful start.

Above all other reasons, the exchanges and interactions between the young, capable attorneys is the main reason for SEHAN’s successful start. Managing Partner Song, uses the phrase “The Union of a Living Organism”. This phrase is used to show that the firm is not merely a mixture of different people, but a living organism in which coworkers must make exchanges and carry out interactions amongst each other to become one. “Coworkers must become one like an organism and for the improvement and development of the firm partners must compromise with each another, make sacrifices for and trust each other,” said Managing Partner Song. “Things may change when we expand to a much bigger size, but for now we are committed to and motivated by this approach and attitude. Above all, at this point, this is the driving force behind SEHAN’s growth and advancement.”

Make Best Effort”

Furthermore, SEHAN shows that it is striving to grow and develop as the configuration and relationship of the fields of work, line up of partners with a range of diverse expertise, litigation and counsel, and the harmony and balance between domestic and foreign work are all aspects of the firm that it is aiming to improve upon. In relation to this “there is an even and well-knit configuration of human resources in each department [of the firm]” said Seong Kang, Managing Partner. According to another SEHAN attorney, at first the departments dealing with litigation had the most business and sales; however, now the departments dealing with advisory are surpassing these sales. The attorney went on explaining that although there are no “rainmakers” who bring in big money, there are virtually no partners with few works in comparison to other major law firmsand all are working hard to develop and establish their areas of expertise.

 It is obvious that general law firms all aim to put forth a portfolio of a good combination of litigation and counsel; however, this aspect needs to be mentioned,

 as it is closely related to SEHAN’s birth, an event that has drawn great attention. A key factor that led to the launching of SEHAN was the connection between Managing Partner Kang, an attorney with abundant work experience providing legal counsel and Managing Partner Song, an attorney with experience serving as the Chief Judge of the Seoul High Court.

“When I was first introduced to Managing Partner Kang, I thought of the substantial synergy that could result when we combined the legal counsel experience he had built over the years and my litigation experience” said Managing Partner Song. “In addition to this, adding foreign business to provide the highest level of legal services to clients was the one of the purposes of establishing SEHAN.”

Connection through Attorney Hyanghee Seo

 Managing Partners Kang and Song knew of each other by name, and they were formally introduced through Attorney Hyanghee Seo, whom both individually has known for a long time. A graduate of Korea University’s Law School, female attorney Hyanghee Seo met Managing Partner Song as her professor during her time at the Judicial Research & Training Institute. When Managing Partner Song left the Seoul High Court to work as an attorney in 2009, Attorney Seo made several earnest attempts to recruit him to incorporate him into her firm. Three years after Managing Partner Song had left the Seoul High Court and had experience working as a private lawyer and with another one of his students in a medium-sized law firm, Managing Partner Song joined SEBIT, a firm that Attorney Seo was leading and running in May 2012.

 At the time, what had compelled Managing Partner Song to join Attorney Seo was that Attorney Seo had established SEBIT Institute for the training of lawyers fresh out of law school. Attorney Seo recruited Managing Partner Song, who had been a respected professor at the Judicial Research & Training Institute, to run the institute. SEBIT Institute provided law school graduates who are required to undergo six months of on-the-job training guidance based on the Judicial Research & Training Institute’s course of education. At the time of its establishment, the institute received great attention from law schools and legal circles. However when Attorney Seo ceased her work as a lawyer, the institute’s progress also ceased and was put to a stop.

Spotlight Given to Training Institute for Fresh Law School Graduates

 Such relationship between the Managing Partners Kang and Song, made possible by Attorney Seo, paved the way for the establishment of SEHAN. Considering each other to be an ideal partner who could take responsibility for litigation and consultation respectively, Managing Partners Song and Kang decided to found SEHAN LLC. Attorney Seo and Managing Partner Kang were well acquainted with each other because they both used to work at the same law firm when they first graduated from the Judicial Research & Training Institute.

 “We have numerous litigation lawyers, including myself,” said Managing Partner Song. “Managing Partner Kang, on the other hand, is by far one of the best legal consultants in the country. We believed that if we could collaborate, it would make a great picture. In addition to this, with the incorporation of experienced partners, who could cooperate well to become one organism and form one family, we expected additional substantial synergy effects.”

 “While running a legal consulting firm, I often regretted failing to utilize the invaluable experiences of former judges and prosecutors,” said Managing Partner Kang. He had started his career as a lawyer at the nation’s giant law firm Kim and Chang. After leaving Kim and Chang, he established Jisung and merged with Jipyong to create Jipyong Jisung Attorneys at Law. “However, from the beginning, SEHAN is one that has and can take advantage of those experienced attorneys’ expertise in both fields of litigation and counsel.” Managing Partner Kang said in agreement with Managing Partner Song’s vision. Managing Partner Kang added that based on these outstanding foundation, SEHAN’s future challenge is to reorganize the firm’s practice areas in order to provide legal services that satisfy clients’ needs effectively and promptly.

Tencent Investment Counsel

 As demonstrated by frequent updates of its website due to the increases in staff and task areas, SEHAN has grown exponentially in recent months. SEHAN has represented and provided legal counsel for Korean Industrial Bank concerning workout involving the Kumho Group and STX; it has also represented Tencent, China’s largest game company, when the company invested in Korean Internet enterprises.

When Tencent invested Seventy Four Billion won (around 65 million USD) to ‘KakaoTalk’, the firm developing application for smartphone messenger, SEHAN’s Attorney Sukjin Lim,

 member of the New York and New Jersey Bar, represented and was the lead legal advisor for the Chinese company. Attorney Lim who has worked at SHIN & KIM, KIM CHANG & LEE, and Clifford Chance is a veteran lawyer with 16 years of experience in his field.

 SEHAN has actively been engaged in lawsuits as well. It has defended famous singer Dae-kwan Song for his individual rehabilitation application; entertainer Hyeong-don Jeong who was indicted on charges of selling pork cutlets while falsely indicating their contents; Man Chae Jang, the superintendent of education of the Jeonnam province, who was charged with violation of the Public Official Election Act; and Suk Lim, the chairman of Solomon Savings Bank, whose appeals trial is currently under way.

 Also, SEHAN’s task records reveal that it is in a lawsuit on behalf of Dongah Construction against Hana Bank and Shinhan Bank, regarding the issue of who is accountable for the embezzlement of large corporate funds by one of Dongah’s employees. SEHAN has also defended an apartment developer against Hyundai Construction in a lawsuit concerning the PF-guarantee; the firm won the case at the first trial and was compensated for Twenty Billion won (about 18 million USD).

 Defends Dae-kwan Song, Hyeong-don Jeong

 In detail, the law firm’s civil and criminal procedures and cases in the prosecution level are led by Managing Partner Song; corporate and individual rehabilitation areas by Hojin Jang, a former bankruptcy department judge at the Seoul Central District Court, Attorney Kiyoung Choi and Attorney Sukjong Lee who has defended numerous corporate workout cases since he was at HMP; finance areas by Attorney Changyoung Song, a former official at the Financial Supervisory Service, Attorney Jinwon Kang and Attorney Seonghwan Lee; real estate area by Attorney Kyungjoon Jeon, a former attorney at SHIN & KIM, and Sang Min Oh; M&A and general corporate areas by Attorney Seong Kang and Sukjin Lim;

 SEHAN’s development strategies to meet clients’ various demands include constant recruitment of experts of diverse fields and continuous supplementation and reinforcement of its practice areas.

 “[We want to] gather many talent partners to grow into a law firm well-suited for a new environment,” said Managing Partner Kang.

 Mr. Song identified the international arbitration, anti-trust and fair trade, intellectual property rights, and medical litigation areas as particular fields needing improvements in top priority. He also added M&A and finance as two other parts that SEHAN will improve on.

 Plans to Supplement Anti-trust and Fair Trade, Intellectual Property

 SEHAN whose ultimate vision is to contribute to the world appears successful as it is gathering many accomplished and experienced attorneys.

 It is important to note that SEHAN’s success has just begun and continues to draw attention as it is expected to grow continuously. Although it rented the entire 20th floor and half of the 14th floor of the Golden Tower, hardly anyone in the firm think that this is enough space for SEHAN.

 On its website, SEHAN posted that the firm was inspired by ‘Sehando’ (the artist’s most celebrated ink painting) of Kim Jeong-hui, one of the most celebrated practitioners of calligraphy, epigraphists, and scholars of Korea’s later Joseon period. “Inspired by Sehando and Kim’s constant efforts as he completely used 10 ink-stones and 1,000 brushes, SEHAN will also work diligently to provide quality service and trust to our clients, and become the best in the legal industry.”

 One of the reasons SEHAN grabs attention is that experienced attorneys with invaluable expertise are continuously joining it. It is causing nerve in the legal firm industries because many of the newly entering members to the firm are attorneys from major Korean law firms. Ten additional attorneys joined SEHAN after the firm has first opened last March. A representative from SEHAN also stated that when the firm announced that it was looking for associates with two to four years of experience, numerous applicants were attorneys from Korea’s top ten law firms.

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