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Aussie lawyers to benefit from Korea expansion, says Ashurst CEO

EXCLUSIVE: In conversation with Lawyers Weekly, Ashurst global chief executive Paul Jenkins discusses the BigLaw firm’s move into the Korean market and how it will support its work in Australia in ongoing turbulent times.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 05 December 2022 Big Law
Aussie lawyers to benefit from Korea expansion, says Ashurst CEO
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As reported last week by Lawyers Weekly, Ashurst has established a joint venture with Korean law firm HwaHyun, which will see the BigLaw player expand its presence in Asia.

Ashurst Korea JV will, the firm said in a statement, “significantly expand” the firm’s existing outbound Korean practice by building a local presence.

The JV was approved by the Korean Ministry of Justice on 29 November 2022, which noted that “this is the first time a joint venture law firm has been authorised since the Korean legal services market implemented phase three (August 2016) in respect of certain countries that it has with free trade agreements”.


“Over the last 12 months, we have seen strong performance in Asia, which we expect to continue. By combining Ashurst’s global strength with HwaHyun’s local expertise, the joint venture will help us service our clients with their inbound and outbound business opportunities,” Mr Jenkins (pictured) said last Tuesday (29 November).

In conversation with Lawyers Weekly following the announcement, Mr Jenkins said that Ashurst would “absolutely” be looking to pursue further growth opportunities.

“We’ve had 8 per cent revenue growth globally on average every year over the last six years, have made many new partner hires across APAC, with around 50 per cent of our partnership based in the APAC region,” he detailed.

“We are putting the finishing touches on our 2027 strategy, which through its implementation will continue our growth trajectory, including a continued focus on APAC growth.”

Mr Jenkins said that the firm was already doing work for a number of high-profile Korean clients in Australia and that the JV would create more opportunities for inbound investment from Korea to Australia and vice versa.

“This will be reflected in corporate M&A-related work, technology, real estate, and energy-transition related sectors in particular, as well as related disputes and investigations work, we do for those clients,” he explained.

For the firm’s Australia-based practitioners, he outlined, there “will be opportunities for our people to work in Korea as we grow our operations there, in the same way there are opportunities for mobility to all of our global offices”.

Should a global recession hit, the new JV and in-bound work in areas like merger and acquisition will bolster the firm amidst such volatility, Mr Jenkins opined.

“In any stage of the economic cycle, it is important to have a diversified, well-hedged business, and strategic expansions like our Korea joint venture will help cement our already strong Asia presence,” he predicted.

“At this stage of the cycle, we are seeing an increase in investigations and disputes-related work,” he noted, in addition to global increases in demand for cyber security expertise, which he noted is “not subject to the economic cycle due to the business imperative to mitigate increasing cyber risks”.

Elsewhere, Mr Jenkins reflected on the place and importance of global law firms in a post-pandemic world — something Baker McKenzie global chair Milton Cheng and Dentons Australia chair Doug Stipanicev have spoken to Lawyers Weekly about recently, here and here.

“As a global firm, Ashurst already had infrastructure in place for the sharing of knowledge among our teams, but the pandemic certainly accelerated the focus on being truly connected, regardless of the jurisdiction we are in.

“Being a single partnership globally allows us to have a strong sectoral focus — in real estate, infrastructure, energy transition, financial services, private capital and technology — and bring global insights from those sectors to our clients wherever they are based,” he said.

“The Korea JV will see us working with clients in each of those sectors, for inbound and outbound work, based on the current opportunities in the market.”

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