A court has ordered a man who was acquitted of taking bribes to pay his law firm 200 million won ($196,000) in attorney fees.
The ruling is drawing attention as it reveals the fees charged by lawyers who were once judges or prosecutors.
The client, who worked for a mobile telecommunications company, asked a major law firm to defend him against graft charges, and a prosecutor-turned-lawyer from the firm acted as his main attorney.
The client initially paid the law firm 30 million won in fees and 3 million won in value-added tax before trial hearings. He also agreed to pay 100 million won if he was sentenced to probation and 200 million won if he was acquitted.
The client was found not guilty at all levels of the Korean court system, but he refused to pay the law firm the 200 million won he owed in additional compensation for his acquittal.
The law firm filed a civil suit against the client with the Seoul Central District Court for the money in question.
The court ruled that the amount charged was not unreasonable and ordered the client to pay it, citing the seriousness of the case and the similar fees charged by other major law firms.
The court also stressed that the prosecutor-turned-lawyer made great efforts to bring about the not-guilty verdict.
Insiders in the judicial industry said the fee was 200 million won because the prosecutor-turned-lawyer’s had worked as a prosecutor for less than 10 years. They hinted that the charges for clients were far higher when suits are taken by attorneys who have worked as more senior judges or prosecutors.
But clients’ preferences for lawyers who were once judges or prosecutors ― whom they believe to be more likely to win in court ― has been a subject of controversy for decades.
The situation has triggered continuous debates on legal fairness. A key problem is that the lawyers could exploit their connections with their former colleagues ― incumbent judges or prosecutors ― to influence the case.
As a result, the income gap between these lawyers and lawyers without careers in the prosecution or judiciary has been widening.
By Kim Yon-se (firstname.lastname@example.org)