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<Bering Legal, a Korean legal translation company, on a journey toward an AI-driven ‘lawtech’ firm>
MTN Reporter Yeah-ram Kim
Bering Legal is a Korean legal translation company composed of lawyers and paralegals from prestigious law schools and top law firms at home and abroad. Currently, Bering Legal is providing some 400 Korean conglomerates, global companies, and domestic and foreign law firms, including Apple, CJ E&M, Disney, KT, LG Household & Health Care, McDonald’s, Microsoft, Samsung Electro-Mechanics, SK Hynix, and Hyundai Motor, with a variety of legal translation services, such as contract and patent translation, with quality on par with large law firms in Korea yet at a 25 percent lower rate. This is possible because the company operates a virtual law firm whose most of the members work from home to minimize the fixed costs of operating a law firm, including rent. Seong Moon, CEO of Bering Legal, also revealed his ambition to advance the company into a lawtech firm by stepping up the development of a Korean legal translation service using artificial intelligence (AI) in the future.
Read Full Article Here: https://news.mtn.co.kr/newscenter/news_viewer.mtn?gidx=2019080511211069590
<An “outsider who left a major law firm” pioneering the Korean legal translation market>
MT Reporter Serin Ha
There is a person who quit a major law firm and jumped into the Korean legal translation market. This is a story about 34-year-old Seong Moon, CEO of Bering Legal, a company specializing in translating various legal documents such as contract and patent translation. Moon, who was attending Northwestern University School of Law in the United States, said he came up with a business idea in the summer of 2010 when he worked as an intern at a large law firm in Korea. “At that time, I was working with about 60 interns whose main job was legal translation. We translated an overwhelming amount of legal documents throughout the two months. Because we were fluent both in English and Korean and had legal knowledge, our translation quality was pretty good. One afternoon when we were having a cup of tea, we jokingly said that ‘as we are so good at translation, it would be a jackpot if we start a company,’ and this is how we started.”
After seven years since its founding, Bering Legal’s pool of experts has grown to more than 170 lawyers and 500 experts in a variety of fields such as finance, medicine, and IT. More than 400 Korean and global corporations and law firms, including Apple, Disney, Louis Vuitton, POSCO, and CJ E&M, are using its services. Bering Legal provides all kinds of Korean legal translation services such as translation of contracts, letters, and court’s judgments all year round. The company is handling about 200 to 300 cases of legal translation a month with this year’s revenue expected to exceed 2 billion won.
The main reason why clients prefer Bering Legal is that a team of lawyers and paralegals (professionals who assist attorneys’ work at law firms) from prestigious law schools and top law firms at home and abroad provides legal translation services, including contract translation which requires accurate expertise, with quality on par with large law firms in Korea and strict confidentiality at reasonable rates.
CEO Moon explains that when AI technology becomes mainstream in the legal market, sales and review capabilities will be the key. He added that Bering Legal has secured a pool of such experts for the past seven years and will make a patented automatic translator prototype using AI this year with the aim to take the lead in the machine legal translation market in the future.
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<Competition Heating Up in the ‘Legal Translation Market’ Generating Annual Revenue of 200 to 300 billion Won>
There is intense competition to get ahead among Korean legal translation service providers. The professional translation market including legal translation has so far been led by translators from graduate schools of translation and interpretation. However, Korean and international lawyers recently joined the competition by founding companies specializing in legal translation services including contract translation, driving growth of the market. In the era of the global economy, demand for the legal translation market has significantly increased as there are seemingly no borders in all areas of legal practice including contracts as well as litigation and arbitration.
◇ Foreign-licensed lawyers from large law firms leading the market = Currently, there are about 10 companies that specialize in Korean legal translation such as translating contracts or terms and conditions. Among them, “Bering Legal,” spearheaded by a foreign attorney (US) from a major law firm, is leading the pack.
CEO Seong Moon, the founder of Bering Legal, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University School of Law (J.D.) in the United States and worked in a top law firm in Korea before starting the translation business. He saw the market’s potential while running a translation company called Ivy Force and gathered lawyers and law firms’ paralegals to establish Bering Legal. Jung-mo Ryu (30-year-old, passed the 6th bar exam), a former attorney at Yulchon, recently joined Bering Legal to help accelerate its growth.
Most Korean legal translation businesses, including Bering Legal, are headquartered in a shared office such as WeWork and mobilize experts at home and abroad. They maintain reasonable rates by reducing fixed expenses, such as office rent and salaries for full-time employees, and leveraging a ubiquitous environment where employees can work anytime, anywhere. Translation rates charged by these legal translation companies are known to be 20 to 30 percent of those of large law firms.
◇ Annual market size of about 300 billion won = Officials from law firms and translation companies estimate that the Korean legal translation market generates about 200 to 300 billion won in annual sales. This includes law firms’ translation-related sales, which are handled by their own personnel such as foreign-licensed attorneys or paralegals.
“About 10 percent of the annual revenue of the six largest law firms in Korea is estimated to come from legal translation,” said a legal translation company official. An attorney at a major law firm also said, “As far as I know, law firms outsource a lot of translation projects, but now more Korean corporations also commission translation agencies to translate contracts or terms and conditions.”
There are matters of “efficiency” and “security” behind the reason why law firms that have abundant human resources turn to legal translation agencies. As large law firms time-charge legal fees, clients often don’t like to see the timesheet filled with “translation.”
“It is very inefficient for large law firms to directly perform all translation work with their own staff. If clients are cost-sensitive, law firms outsource translation to an agency. In that case, translation companies specializing in legal translation such as contract translation can guarantee both the quality and confidentiality of translation projects by utilizing their own pool of lawyers,” said Seong Moon, CEO of Bering Legal.
◇ The unsatisfactory work environment of foreign lawyers is another reason = Some also view that legal translation companies are emerging because foreign attorneys at Korean law firms are spending too much time translating documents. As they spend most of the time translating contracts or written judgments rather than giving legal advice, more foreign attorneys start to look for another career outside of law firms.
A foreign lawyer said, “Most of the tasks assigned to foreign attorneys at Korean law firms and corporations are interpretation and translating legal documents. Many lawyers worry that such inefficient job assignments could adversely affect their career as a legal expert.”
Read Full Article Here: https://www.lawtimes.co.kr/Legal-News/Legal-News-View?serial=156645
<Attorney Jung-mo Ryu, a Pioneer of ‘Legal Tech’>
Law Times Reporter Seongmin Wang
“The paradigm of machine translation has dramatically transformed as Google introduced a translation program based on machine learning. We would also like to pioneer the legal tech sector by developing an artificial neural network-based translation engine and further combining artificial intelligence (AI) technology and law.”
This is according to Jung-mo Ryu (30-year-old, passed the 6th bar exam), a lawyer who recently joined Bering Legal, a company specializing in Korean legal translation including contract translation, after quitting a top law firm. He graduated from the Korea Science Academy and studied computer science and mathematics at Duke University in the United States.
While serving as a Navy interpreter after graduating from university, Ryu heard the establishment of South Korea’s first law school and decided to pursue a legal profession. After entering and graduating from Yonsei University Law School with excellent grades, he joined a law firm called Yulchon.
After working for the large law firm for several years, Ryu moved to a translation company specializing in legal translation such as translation of contracts, letters, and court’s judgments. He cited his “non-mainstream” mindset and the growth potential of the legal tech sector as the reasons why he left the stable law firm.
“In fact, it was not a mainstream idea for a science academy graduate to choose to study in the US and for an engineering major to go to a law school. I have this ‘non-mainstream’ mindset. Maybe because of that, all of a sudden, startups that are changing the world with creative ideas caught my attention. Since many of my friends were still in the research field like programming, I started to look for a job that I could create synergy out of my network. This is why I decided to join Bering Legal, a company specializing in Korean legal translation and seeking to enter the legal tech sector. This is an area with unlimited potential.”
He was convinced that AI based on artificial neural networks equipped with deep learning technology would revolutionize the legal market.
“Previous machine translation was awkward and had a lot of errors because all the language rules such as grammar and vocabulary of the source language (the language requiring translation) were put into algorithms and fit into the rules of the target language (the language being translated into). However, AI with deep learning technology learns languages by itself, so its translation is closer to natural language. Legal translation is a little more complicated because it has to convey even the implied meanings of legal terms in each country. A full-fledged development is underway, but it is certainly not an easy job (laughs). But if AI advances to a level that understands legal terms and systems, it will have a huge impact on the legal market in the future. We want to be a trailblazer in this field.”
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