[Viewpoint]Our lawyers must follow new lawsThe free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States, which carried the expectations and concerns of the entire nation during negotiations, finally came to a conclusion.
As a consequence, the law market will actually open up within five years, in three phases.
Regarding that opening, some lawyers are concerned that, because of the excessively fast speed of the agreement and the lack of preparation time, the domestic law market might be completely dominated by huge foreign law firms armed with expertise and high quality service.
Also, many are worried about the possible threat to the survival of mid- and small-sized law firms as well as individual lawyers from large law firms as they undertake even small legal proceedings.
But our law community has never just sat back idly.
The Korean Bar Association has carried out professional training in its own way, pushing its lawyers to become more competitive.
As a result, the bigger and more professional law firms that face direct repercussions from the opening of the market are said to have already reached a level in which they can compete evenly with foreign law firms.
In fact, the leaders of renowned domestic law firms expressed confidence that they will not be at a disadvantage when they compete with foreign law firms ― largely with regard to domestic laws ― even if the market opens up.
But a more fundamental issue has to do with the attitude of everyone in the law community, rather than the degree of preparations they make before the opening.
The conclusion of the bilateral free trade pact means that all goods and services will eventually be exchanged freely between national borders. This also means that social and cultural exchanges will also be expanded, almost without limit.
To the legal community, the signing of the free trade agreement also signifies that they have an unavoidable mission to go beyond the simple dimension of the opening of the market.
When goods and services, and people and capital are exchanged without limitations, there should be global rules that govern those exchanges and the exact perception of those rules.
Just as opening the door and globalization are requirements, not options, so are global standards and rules.
Lawyers must change from the past, when they were content to resolve legal disputes that arose within our borders by using domestic laws and precedents or customs.
They are also responsible for making thorough preparation for the global rules, so our businesses and people could be winners in the boundless competition of the international market.
In other words, lawyers should be armed with the spirit of reliable service and a global mindset toward their clients to become warriors and guides for our nation at the forefront of international competition.
This is the mission of today’s lawyers.
In this regard, the law industry should not be the object of regulation, but rather set apart as one of the strategic industries to be fostered at the national level. For that reason, we should change our national perceptions and consider lawyers to be precious assets of the country.
Korea is no longer an agricultural country, as it was more than 120 years ago when the nation relied on the Chinese experts sent by Li Hung-jang to review the contents of the 1882 Korean-American Treaty of Amity and Commerce. Armed with state-of-the-art information and technology and willing to endure even temporary separation of family members for a better life, Koreans are neo-nomads who send a great number of children abroad to study.
Now the mission of lawyers in this era of neo-nomads has become clear. Whether we will prosper by overcoming the storms of opening up the market or be wrecked by the repercussions, does not depend on the length of the preparatory period, but on the attitude of lawyers toward the opening of the market.
*The writer is a lawyer and publicity director at the Korean Bar Association. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.
by Yoon Sang-il