“Ever heard of the term ‘3 second bag’? It refers to bags from the same brand you get to see every 3 seconds you walk on the street. In the U.S., people use the term ‘3 minute lawyer’. It means that there are so many lawyers here, so you could see a lawyer every 3 minutes you walk on the street. When Korea opens its legal market, Korea will face a similar situation.”
Mr. Kim Bong June, founding partner of Kim&Bae, P.C., says “Korean attorneys and companies will need a new plan when the Korean legal market opens up. They should prepare new strategies, such as collaborating with American attorneys.” Interview with Mr. Kim took place on April 29, in the Ritz-Carlton, Seoul.
Mr. Kim started his practice from 1992, after receiving his J.D. from Syracuse College of Law. He founded Kim&Bae in 2003 with his wife Christine M. Bae. After 4 years, his firm in New Jersey became the biggest Korean-led law firm in the northeastern area. Mr. Kim is planning to expand his business in Korea when its markets open in 2017.
He asserts that, in order to adapt to the new environment, Korean attorneys need to pay attention to their American neighbors, who are more ability-oriented. He stresses that a license will not guarantee the holder’s life anymore. “The bubble is gone. Only the experts will survive. Being the fittest will be the only strategy to survive. Also, if the Korean market becomes ability-oriented like America, premium for predecessors would naturally vanish.”
Mr. Kim points out that patent suits should be what Korean attorneys and companies should lay their eyes on.
“Firms are quite shy when it comes to patent disputes. They tend to settle down thinking that conflicts are better when avoided. So they end up settling for 1.2 million, even if the claim was for 1 million. But those costs will drop substantially once you consult a lawyer and continue your law suit.”
The first advice from Mr. Kim was that firms should use legal advisors more often. “Companies should have legal advisors from both Korea and the U.S. If the opposing party sent the company a letter of warning, legal advisors will give their opinion on the expected size of the upcoming law suit, without any additional cost. To enjoy such benefit, companies should go to a lawyer before disputes come to them, and keep legal aid in touch.”
If companies are advised to engage in a law suit, Mr. Kim says they should consult a commercial law expert. “In most cases, patent disputes do not require more than commercial law experts to make them go away. This is the stage in which companies get to decide whether they need patent lawyers. In other words, companies do not need to hire expensive patent lawyers, let alone ‘Samsung-Apple’ class attorneys, for every dispute they encounter.”
“”Lawyers are like doctors”, he added. “You don’t need a dentist or a cancer specialist when you get a cold. All you need is your regular, everyday doctor. Likewise, companies can save a lot in legal disputes when they get help from legal advisors and commercial law experts.”
Mr. Kim ended his interview by stressing the need for Korean law firms to work with their American counterparts. “Cases should be handled on a face-to-face basis with the client. This is to ensure the relationship with the client. Korean attorneys should face the client directly in Korea, and deal with some parts of the case. When given material from the Korean lawyers, American lawyers should take care of the ongoing suit here in the U.S. This will provide the client a 24 hour working force; Korean and American lawyers working when the other is not. Speeding up like this would certainly satisfy the attorneys, and of course, the client.”