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GAR 100 - 9th Edition

Shin & Kim

18 February 2016

The practice lost some leading names but gained its second investment treaty case

People in Who’s Who Legal: 6
Value of pending counsel work: US$5.1 billion
Treaty cases: 2

Dating from 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 firm’s entry into China – 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 co-chair and then successor as practice head Beomsu Kim. The practice is now in the hands of former managing partner Doo-Sik Kim.

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

Who uses it?

The firm’s highest-profile instruction is probably by US investment fund Lone Star in an ICSID arbitration against the South Korean government for more than US$2.4 billion. Shin & Kim is acting alongside Sidley Austin.

A lot of its work has some Korean connection. It’s been associated with such names as Samsung, Hanwha, Daewoo, Korea Development Bank, Kookmin Bank and Woori Bank.

The firm’s Latin American capability has produced a number of instructions from that region, for example, from a Brazilian heavy machinery company in a dispute with a Korean joint venture party.

Track record

The firm has told us that it prides itself on outcomes that, while favourable, also allow for the resumption of a business relationship –in other words, settlements. That’s not such a common approach in Korea, where scorched-earth scenarios tend to be the norm.

Sometimes, though, cases do go the full distance, and provide strong results. A year or two back, 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 came had a change of leadership after practice chair Beomsu Kim left to form his own boutique, KL Partners, in 2015. Successor Doo-Sik Kim was joined by the practice’s vice chair John Kim and Eun-Nyung Lee, who had only recently joined the group from Shin & Kim’s cross-border M&A and corporate finance practice. The firm has made up the shortfall by promoting new partner Jiwon Kang.

The departures have not stopped the work coming in. The firm got its second investment treaty instruction when it was retained as co-counsel with White & Case for a US$340 million claim against Korea for Dutch clients International Petroleum Investment Company. It picked up another case for Korea’s largest private equity fund, MBK Partners, in a US$200 million ICC arbitration.

Client LSF-KEB, a subsidiary of Lone Star, won a US$40 million ICC award in a Singapore-seated arbitration at the beginning of 2015. The firm also helped chemicals industry client Semi Materials successfully resist a US$136 million HKIAC claim and win a US$6.1 million counterclaim.

Client comment

A client the firm represented in a Korean ICC dispute says, “We were very happy and satisfied with [the lawyers] attention and efforts and the result.”

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