For the uninitiated those living on Mars for the last few months Gangnam Style is the name of the Korean pop song which has racked up almost half a billion YouTube hits.
Gangnam is an affluent area of Seoul, just south of the city’s river – a Korean Knightsbridge or Upper East Side – and the song gently pokes fun at the superficial materialism of the neighborhood’s residents.
But there is a serious point here*: in the market’s hottest, newly liberalized market, are the top law firms opening up in Gangnam or opting for something less showy?
Let’s take a look.
Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton
The prestigious New York firm has long had a leading Korea practice, but chose the historical Jung central district for its new office. Not very Gangnam style.
McDermott Will & Emery
The U.S-based international firm recently opened up in Seoul, but has stayed firmly north of the river in the Mirae Asset Center.
Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
One could hardly expect partners from this most White Shoe of Wall Street firms to be doing the horse dance. And sure enough, the elite firm has stuck to traditional Jung-gu.
Despite being the first firm to officially open in the country following the US-Korea free trade agreement, Sheppard has played safe and gone for the Mirae Asset Center in downtown.
Ropes & Gray
We have a winner. Of the major U.S firms, Boston-headquartered Ropes has taken the plunge and looks most likely to attract instructions from Korean hipsters. Its new space in the POSCO Center is right in the middle of the famed Gangnam section.
Other firms set to open their Korean doors soon include Clifford Chance and Paul Hastings.
Will any of them be facing up to Ropes in an East Asian dance-off?
*Not really – a shameless attempt to liven up a Monday morning, help the song on its way to a billion hits, while ostensibly nodding to two of our favorite themes: international law firms, and emerging legal markets.