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GAR 100 - 12th Edition

Shin & Kim

05 April 2019

Waiting on an award in a multibillion dollar ICSID claim against South Korea

Pending cases as counsel 14
Value of pending counsel work US$5 billion
Treaty cases 1
Third-party funded cases 0

Established in 1981, this 230-plus lawyer firm was one of the first in Korea to use a Western-style partnership system. Its experience in international arbitration doesn’t go back quite that far, but it still has more than many other practices in that market. Its arbitration practice developed with the firm’s entry into China in the early 2000s – it has offices in Beijing and Shanghai.

A few years ago, the firm recruited Benjamin Hughes, a US-qualified arbitration specialist from Shearman & Sterling, bringing it into the GAR 100 for the first time. Hughes has since moved on, as has his successor as practice head, Beomsu Kim – who left with two other partners in 2015.

The practice is now in the hands of former managing partner Doo-Sik Kim, who has been at the firm for almost four decades. He is a vice president of the Korea Arbitrators Association and the president of the Trade Remedy Forum of Korea.

The firm reports that under his leadership it has not only increased its casework but diversified it, now acting in construction, energy sector and intellectual property disputes as well as investor state matters.

Jae Min Jeon, Seungmin Lee and Youngwon Yoon are the other partners in the arbitration group.

While Shin & Kim is not spoken of in the same breath as market leaders Bae Kim & Lee and Kim & Chang, it has a pipeline of good work.

Who uses it?

The firm’s highest-profile instruction is probably from US investment fund Lone Star in a US$4.7 billion ICSID claim against South Korea, reportedly the first ever investor state claim the state has faced. In that matter, it’s acting alongside KL Partners and Sidley Austin.

A lot of its work has a Korean connection. It’s been associated with such names as Samsung, Hanwha, Daewoo, Korea Development Bank, Kookmin Bank, Woori Bank and MBK Partners (Korea’s largest private equity fund).

The firm’s Latin American capability has produced new instructions from that region, including one from a Brazilian heavy machinery company in a dispute with a Korean joint venture party.

Track record

Abu Dhabi sovereign wealth fund IPIC retained it for a US$340 million ICSID case against South Korea (alongside White & Case). The case was settled in 2016.

The firm says it prides itself on outcomes that, while favourable, also allow for the resumption of a business relationship – in other words, settlements, which are not that common in Korea.

Sometimes, though, cases do go the full distance and provide strong results. Shin & Kim won costs while defending a UK company against a claim by a Korean satellite firm. It has also successfully defended Korea’s largest bank in a documentary credit dispute brought by an aeroplane manufacturer under ICC DOCDEX rules.

Recent events

The firm hired Rockey Yoo as a senior foreign attorney from Canadian firm Cooper & Company. Yoo has a history of civil and criminal law practice in US and Canadian courts but will now turn his focus more to international arbitration.

The firm has a strict policy on the confidentiality of its cases but reports working on a number of commercial disputes under KCAB and ICC rules over the past year.

Hearings in the Lone Star case at ICSID were completed in early 2016 and an award is now awaited.

Client comment

One client says the firm is “distinguished” by the capability of its arbitration team. It says Seungmin Lee “consistently impressed” throughout the arbitral proceeding with her professionalism, efficiency and “in-depth legal and arbitral knowledge.”

A technology client that used the team calls them “top notch lawyers” who ensured “success in every aspect of the arbitration”.

Another client in an ICC case says: “We were very happy and satisfied with [the lawyers’] attention and efforts and the result.”

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