South Korea is consulting on changes to rules governing joint ventures between foreign and South Korean law firms in the latest step towards liberalisation of legal services.

The draft bill, the Foreign Legal Consultants Act, proposes the amendments as the Ministry of Justice in Seoul implements the third stage of legal services provisions agreed as part of a 2011 free trade agreement with the EU.

The Law Society is consulting members on the changes and will respond to the Ministry of Justice before 7 May, when the consultation ends. The Law Society signed a memorandum of understanding with the Korean Bar Association in 2012.

The Korean market has been gradually opening up since the EU-Korea FTA, which came into force in July 2011, allowing EU firms to establish a representative office in South Korea.

The second stage, from 2013, allowed foreign firms to fee-share with their Korean counterparts. The third phase, due to begin no later than 2016, will allow foreign lawyers to enter into partnership with, and employ, South Korean lawyers.

Currently, foreign lawyers can practise only as foreign legal consultants. The Korean legal market is worth up to $3bn a year.