In South Korea, the legal profession has been regarded as one of the highest paid and respectable jobs. But since the introduction of a three-year law school system in 2009 aimed at educating lawyers in specialized fields such as patents, medicine, and human rights, more than 2,000 newly-minted lawyers have entered the market. The total number of Korean lawyers was 16,547 in 2013, up 30 percent from 12,607 in 2011. Law school reform has been part of the preparation for the opening of South Korea’s legal market to foreign firms.
Article from Newsis:
Lawyers in Financial Straits Fail to Pay ￦60,000 in Membership Fee
A lawyer in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, took his own life after suffering from depression due to a decreasing number of cases. The suicide highlights the economic hardship in what was once the most promising profession in South Korea. A growing number of lawyers are reportedly failing to even pay membership fees for bar associations.
According to a Gyeonggi-based bar association, as of February 1st, 74 out of their 686 members have yet to pay membership fees for one month or more. Among those are ten lawyers who have outstanding fees for twelve months or more.
If the ￦66,000 ($66) monthly membership fee is not paid, the bar association does not arrange legal cases for member lawyers and even could take the disciplinary action of expulsion from the association for lawyers who are seriously delinquent on payment.
The bar association blames increasing non-payment on a sluggish economy and subsequently a weaker demand for legal services.
Lawyers in Gyeonggi Province face increasingly heated competition for getting cases as more clients seek to take their cases to attorneys in Seoul and the first batch of law school-graduated lawyers pours into the market.
The Gyeonggi bar association reported that, 503 lawyers took on 2,391 cases for January of 2009, with per-capita cases averaging 4.76. In contrast, in January of 2014, 2,396 cases arrived on the desks of 687 lawyers, for an average of 3.77 cases per lawyer.
Over the past five years, the membership of the Gyeonggi bar assocation has swelled by 184 while there was an increase of just five current cases over the same period.
A lawyer in Suwon said, “More than a few lawyers find it hard to pay their female clerks and monthly rent, not to mention membership fees.” Once one of the highest paid careers, the legal profession now sees a widening income gap among fellow lawyers.
A bar association official said, “All lawyers are required to join the association. The failure to pay membership fees appears to come from a declining demand for legal services. I anticipate that competition among lawyers will become stiffer in order to attract clients.”
Comments from Daum:
Fees for legal service are too expensive! When I visited the office of a lawyer after seeing an ad for free legal consultation, they didn’t offer detailed help, saying that you need to pay if you want more aid. So I asked them how much I should pay to get more help, then they said the fee is ￦30,000 per hour. Thinking it too costly, I just walked out. I recommend lawyers serve as government-appointed lawyers if they are really cash-strapped.
paul smith: [responding to above]
Are you a street bum? Even tutoring for a middle- or high-school student costs ￦20,000 per hour. Open up some law books sometime. What a idiot!
If a house is not sold, the seller lowers the price in order to locate a buyer. If lawyers don’t get enough work, they will receive more cases when they lower their legal fees.
In the past, lawyers used to receive three keys from the bride’s family before marriages. Now they are just pitiful. [Note:The three keys were for a car, a house, and an office where he would work. The three keys are considered to be a dowry a bride had to bring to get married to a successful lawyer.]
If they are having a tough time, let them collect cardboard boxes in the streets.
I agree with the comment that big law firms should stop offering retired judges and prosecutors big money in order to take advantage of their connections and get favorable treatment in court.
Stop spitting out bullshit. When I went to the office of a lawyer for help, I ended up consulting with an assistant director of the office, not with the lawyer. And even he was really arrogant. Lawyers do not serve ordinary people, and that’s the real problem.
In the United States, lawyer as a career is common, and is in the same league as a licensed real estate agent or insurance planner.
Comments from Naver:
It’s a matter of pride. Would a person who passed a notriously difficult bar exam be willing to fry chickens for a living if he earned a lot of money? I guess not.[Note: Currently, there are two paths to becoming a lawyer in South Korea. One is to enter a law school and take a bar exam upoon graduation. The other is to pass a state-administered bar examination. The latter put no limit on age, diploma for applicants but is notriously difficult to pass. The exam is set to be phased out in 2017, thus making law schools only the way to become a lawyer.]
If a lawyer can’t earn money, he or she needs to take another career. If they’re unable to pay a ￦60,000n fee, stop practicing law. And why do they need a female clerk even when they don’t pay a small fee?