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Naver Corp. has decided not to display the lawyers working on its platform to the comprehensive search feature. This is a measure out of the recent conflict between the legal tech industry and lawyers.
Since the beginning of this month, Naver has been providing information on experts of various fields in its expert brokerage service 'Expert' in the comprehensive search feature. If an active expert on ‘Expert’ is search on Naver’s comprehensive search engine, a link is provided with his/her profile and information in a prescribed form.
Licensed professionals such as labor attorneys, patent attorneys, lawyers, administrators, tax accountants, CPAs, customs agents, damage adjusters, appraisers, and psychological consultants are usually displayed. However, lawyers, one of the main professionals in the Expert, are omitted. Naver will not be providing a link to the service even if the information of a ‘Expert’ who registered his/her data is displayed in the search box.

Naver's action has to do the recent change of regulations by the Korean Bar Association. According to the 'Regulations on Advertisement of Lawyers' to be enforced by the Bar Association this August, KBA-affiliated members must not participate in or provide legal consultations or acts of introducing, arranging, or inducing cases, etc. in exchange for economic gains.
After the regulatory enforcement, lawyers who sign up for a platform that connects lawyers and consumers, or request advertisements may be subject to disciplinary action by the Bar Association Disciplinary Committee. KBAs’ reasons are to prevent side effects such as low/dumping prices and excessive advertising competition.
While amending the regulations, the Bar Association attached the proviso that 'a lawyer is permitted to advertise him/herself through his/her own website, YouTube, blog, and web portal unless there is a special reason', but lawyers claim that there is room for different interpretations. A lawyer pointed out on June 7 that "If Naver Expert is regarded as a separate platform, using it can be interpreted as a violation of regulations."
A Naver official said, "Due to the recent conflict between some legal tech startups and the Korean Bar Association, if we provide the information of a lawyer active on Expert through comprehensive search feature, that person may face disadvantages (in the legal field). We plan on not disclosing the information to protect them until this conflict is resolved.
In the legal market, conflicts between IT-based legal tech startups and the KBA are currently ongoing. Since 2015, the Bar Association has filed two complaints against online lawyer brokerage platforms such as LawTalk for violating the Lawyers Act, but all charges have been dismissed and/or acquitted.
When the accusation failed, the KBA changed the 'Regulations on Advertisements for Lawyers' this May and virtually forced its members to leave the platform. Law & Company, which runs LawTalk, countered it by filing a constitutional complaint against the revision of the Korean Bar Association's 'Regulations on Advertisement of Attorneys'. The Korea Startup Forum, which represents startups, also pointed out that “KBA’s measure greatly reduces the accessibility of legal services.”
An official from the legal tech industry said, "Naver’s case shows that KBA's exercise of its authority can eventually lead to restrictions on consumer information. Both the government and the National Assembly should come up with a social consensus to not letthis become the second Tada incident."

By Staff Reporter Shiso Kim