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GAR 100 - 4th Edition

Shin & Kim

18 February 2011

The arrival of former Shearman & Sterling arbitration specialist Benjamin Hughes at Shin & Kim – and the launch of a stand-alone practice group brought the firm into the GAR 100 last year.

Pending cases as counsel:
10
Value of pending counsel work:
US$0.2 billion
Current arbitrator appointments:
2 (of which 1 is as sole or chair)
No. of lawyers sitting as arbitrator:
1

The 230-lawyer firm was established in 1981 and was one of the first Korean firms to incorporate the Western-style partnership system. On the international arbitration front, ranking organisations put it just behind the two market leaders, Bae Kim & Lee and Kim & Chang.
Even before installing a specialist practice group, the firm notched up a decent amount of experience, aided by its presence in Beijing and Shanghai. Since Hughes’ arrival the practice has grown further to the point where it has 10 live cases.
Hughes is a US national who has spent much of his life in Korea and read law at Seoul National University. Before joining he’d been senior associate at Shearman & Sterling in Singapore where a major instruction, it so happened, was co-counsel with Shin & Kim on a vast dispute between a Middle Eastern investment fund and a Korean oil firm.
Hughes, who speaks Korean fluently, has joined as foreign legal consultant and co-chair. The group’s Korean co-chair is Beomsu Kim, a former judge and frequent arbitrator of cases administered by the Korean International Arbitration Board, as well as a director of the Korean Council of International Arbitration. Managing partner Doo Sik Kim, who has participated in international dispute procedures, is also attached to the group.
Recently Shin & Kim became the first South Korean law firm to begin offering a Latin American service from Seoul. It recruited David Yang, a Korean national, who lived in Argentina for 25 years to lead that practice (he joined from a firm in Buenos Aires). The firm is already representing several Korean companies in different projects in Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia.

Who uses it?

One of the largest banks in Korea, a big player in the chemical industry, an auto-parts manufacturer, a European arms maker, a US heavy-machinery maker and a business executive from the world of financial services are all using the practice.

Big wins

Asked about “big wins”, the firm says it preferred to reveal “win wins”: “We recently had a case in which the other side – the claimant – refused to consider settlement, so we proceeded with the arbitral proceedings. As time went on the claimant realised we had a strong case and returned to the table, enabling us to negotiate a settlement which ended the dispute, compensated our client for the costs of the arbitration and allowed the parties to resume their business relationship. Winning the arbitration would have been the second-best result.”

Client comment

In-house sources at one client, Simmel Difesa, say they were impressed by Shin & Kim’s speed and accuracy, describing it as “a very serious” firm that they would recommend to others.
Another client says the firm was reliable and offered good advice, their approach to the dispute was “reasonable”, and they had good mastery of the documentation. The client adds that the case eventually settled as a result of the “well organised negotiation” without the need for any hearings. “The firm has experienced manpower and good worldwide connections,” the source says.
Young Kwon, senior counsel at LINA Korea says he was impressed by Benjamin Hughes’ “expertise and skill as an advocate and adviser; he always tried to find the most practical, business-oriented solution for us.”
A final referee company that GAR heard from said Shin & Kim partners were “knowledgeable about the arbitration process and demonstrated a high standard of professionalism in dealing with their counterparts. They didn’t try to complicate the issues in the dispute in expectation of higher legal fees, nor did they emulate the opposing lawyers in using tactics designed to irritate. I definitely feel I can focus on day-to-day business with Shin & Kim there to protect my interest in the arbitration.”

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