Asia Business Law Journal names the top firms in Japan. Lim Miran and Elverina Hidayati report
Japan’s economy continues to recover moderately, supported by pent-up demand, even with the GDP shrinking at an annualised pace of 2.1% in the third quarter. However, growth could slow due to worldwide economic trends. Projections on demand may need to be revised, and external factors such as global trade tensions and covid-19 still threaten the Japanese economy.
The supportive and ultra-loose monetary policy of the world’s third-largest economy, with the Bank of Japan unwinding its 10-year yields bond policy, has created a conducive environment for domestic investors. In another step to bolster Japan’s economy, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida has unveiled a USD113 billion economic stimulus package.
Featuring a range of measures, such as reduced income tax and benefits for low-income households, this plan is expected to boost Japan’s GDP by 1.2%. Many Japanese families have felt the economic downturn, with household spending declining by 2.8% from the previous year.
Japan has also benefited from the influx of tourists after the government lifted border restrictions, which has helped the country recover more than 70% of pre-pandemic levels. Despite Japan’s progress towards achieving the bank’s 2% inflation target, there are still uncertainties caused by external economic risks.
To boost the country’s economic security, Japan held a “two-plus-two” meeting with the US in mid-November to pursue deeper financial security amid China’s assertive behaviour in the Indo-Pacific region. Business sentiment in Japan has improved, especially among major manufacturers. Interestingly, this has come when the Japanese yen has weakened, thereby boosting the value of overseas earnings by exporters like Toyota and Nintendo.
Japan has been the most significant net creditor globally for more than 30 years, with external assets worth USD3.2 trillion. This was achieved as foreign investment sought higher yields due to low interest rates. As government bond yields rise, domestic assets become more attractive to investors, luring them back and potentially bringing in more foreign investment.
To succeed in the country’s challenging macroeconomic climate, seeking legal advice and choosing trusted professionals is crucial. Japanese law firms are meanwhile expanding their overseas footprints and looking to tap into markets with high volumes of Japanese companies.
For the Japan Law Firm Awards 2023, Asia Business Law Journal has chosen to recognise and celebrate the most essential practices in the country by identifying the top four law firms in each. We have added three new categories this year: Best Boutique Law Firm, Best Foreign Law Firms, and Healthcare & Life Science in the regular categories, further highlighting the diversity and complexity of the Japanese legal landscape.
The firm of the year has been selected, followed by the overall law firms, each excelling in their respective categories.
Nishimura & Asahi is a well-known full-service international firm in Japan, founded by Toshiro Nishimura in 1966. The firm has expanded its presence to 20 locations worldwide with more than 1,700 professionals including lawyers and other staff.
Recently, Nishimura & Asahi formed a strategic alliance with Philippine law firm Sy & Partners and Malaysian firm WM Leong & Co to strengthen its network in the Southeast Asia region.
Managing Partner Ryutaro Nakayama leads the firm, which offers a wide range of legal services in areas including arbitration, aviation, banking and finance, capital markets, competition and antitrust, and corporate and commercial.
The firm has recently added several Japanese and foreign attorneys to its team, including Christopher Osborne ‒ who has vast experience advising on cross-border M&A, inbound investment and renewable energy project development ‒ as a partner. As a leading law firm in Japan, Nishimura & Asahi values diversity and inclusion (D&I) as a critical aspect of its business.
Yu Watanabe, lead counsel, Japan, at Airbnb in Japan, praises Nishimura & Asahi for “striving for the zenith of intellect and soul in law”. The firm impresses with innovative approaches, he says, adding that its advanced D&I initiative complements its excellence.
Masahiro Sogabe, general manager of the Legal Division at Itochu Corporation in Japan, says Nishimura & Asahi boasts a large team of lawyers and is known for its client-oriented approach.
“They are always best trying to understand our business goals and provide solutions to achieve the said goals, which very often include non-legal strategical advice on how we can break through certain obstacles and difficulties,” says Sogabe.
In October, Nishimura & Asahi advised Honda Motor, Japan’s leading motorcycle manufacturer, on its tender offer for shares in its subsidiary, Yachiyo.
In the M&A sector, the firm assisted Toshiba Corporation, a major Japanese electronics manufacturer, on a tender offer by TBJH worth about JPY2 trillion (USD14 billion).
Nishimura & Asahi has provided legal advice on projects and energy transactions for more than 30 years. The firm recently helped Hokkaido Electric Power develop 16MW of solar power plants under the off-site power purchase agreement model.
Founded in 1952, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune is a renowned full-service law firm specialising in international finance transactions. The firm was created as a merger between Anderson Mori and Tomotsune & Kimura in 2005, and expanded by integrating with Bingham Sakai Mimura Aizawa in 2007. It is widely recognised for its premier international insolvency and restructuring and crisis management capabilities.
With more than 600 professionals, including Japanese and foreign lawyers, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune provides practical and strategic Japanese law advice through offices in 12 locations across the globe, including its Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Jakarta, Singapore and London offices and associated firms in Hong Kong. The firm has recently announced it will open in 2024 a Brussels office, led by Ko Hanamizu, who has served as head partner of the Singapore office.
In the competition and antitrust sector, the firm has assisted medical technology provider Abiomed on Japan Fair Trade Commission proceedings regarding its acquisition, valued at about USD16 billion, by American healthcare products company Johnson & Johnson.
The firm is also known for its expertise in banking and finance legal matters, with notable clients including D Capital, DBJ Asset Management, Fivestar Mezzanine and Janus Henderson Investors Europe. One of its achievements is assisting leading financial service company Credit Suisse Management with the public offering of the Premium Carry Strategy Fund.
Since its establishment in 2002, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto has provided legal services to clients in Japan and abroad. The firm came into existence through the merger of Mori Sogo and Hamada & Matsumoto, and later expanded with the addition of Max Law Offices in 2005.
The full-service law firm opened its New York office in September under the leadership of managing partner Yuto Matsumura. This move has strengthened the overseas presence of the firm, which already offers legal services in China, Singapore, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam and Indonesia, and boasts a team of 709 lawyers.
Mori Hamada & Matsumoto is known for its expertise in handling telecoms and cybersecurity matters. It has served several reputable clients such as Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation, Hitachi, and Toshiba.
The firm has also successfully resolved tax disputes, as demonstrated by its win in a lawsuit in the Tokyo District Court in July 2023 – the client’s subsidiary had unreported capital gains worth about JPY600 million.
In the M&A realm, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto played a crucial role in assisting the state-backed Japan Investment Corporation in acquiring JSR, a leading Japanese semiconductor equipment maker, for about USD6.4 billion.
Takashi Unoki, senior manager at PayPay Corporation in Japan, highly recommends Mori Hamada & Matsumoto for its exceptional M&A service. “MHM provides us with accurate and easy to understand advice in all fields, from M&A transactions to regulatory matters. We appreciate their advice and their support is indispensable for our success in the market,” he says.
Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu was formed in 2000 with the merger of Nagashima & Ohno and Tsunematsu Yanase & Sekine. In the past 20 years, the firm has expanded to 559 lawyers, providing international and commercial legal services with overseas offices in New York, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Jakarta and Shanghai.
The Tokyo-based firm, led by managing partners Fumihide Sugimoto and Hiroki Inoue, advises domestic and international clients on a wide range of legal matters.
Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu has built a reputation for its work focused on tax-related matters, ranging from commercial transactions to tax disputes and litigations, with well-regarded tax practitioners in Japan.
The firm is also a member of Taxand, the world’s largest organisation of independent tax law firms. In June, the firm advised Japan restaurant group Zensho Holdings on the acquisition of a catering company based in Germany, Sushi Circle Gastronomie. As Japan’s largest food service provider, Zensho Holdings has 10,000 operating locations worldwide and consolidated sales of USD5.8 billion.
Baker & McKenzie collaborates with the international law firm, Baker McKenzie. The firm has existed since 1972, when it was formed as Tokyo Aoyama Law Office. In 2012, it was renamed Baker & McKenzie (Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise).
The Tokyo office is managed by co-managing partners Akifusa Takada and Gavin Raftery and has a team of 173 professionals, including attorneys and economists.
In partnership with Baker McKenzie’s Sydney office team, the firm recently provided legal advice to the Japan Bank for International Co-operation on credit support for Telstra’s acquisition of Digicel Pacific, which was part of an overall financing package worth USD1.33 billion. The firm also represented Hong Kong asset management platform Cambium Grove Capital in its investment in Japanese real estate in June.
Morrison Foerster is a renowned international law firm that expanded its operations in Tokyo in 1987. The Tokyo office specialises in data compliance and cybersecurity, real estate, and litigation. The office was initially known as Ito Mitomi Law Office, and later formed a joint venture with Morrison Foerster Foreign Law Office in 2001. Today, the Tokyo office has grown to become one of the largest international firms with a team of 120 lawyers led by the experienced managing partner, Masahiro Shiga.
The lawyers in the Tokyo office possess expertise in real estate finance, fund formation and private equity, banking and other financial institutions. The firm also has another managing partner, Ken Siegel, well known for his expertise in corporate acquisitions, joint ventures and strategic alliances.
Recently, the firm’s private equity practice team successfully advised Toshiba Corp, a Japanese multinational electronics company, on a buyout offer worth USD15.2 billion. Japan Industrial Partners, a private equity firm, made the investment, and Siegel led the Tokyo team in supporting the New York team. The firm’s lawyers assisted the board of directors and the special committee that was set up to engage with potential investors and related matters.
Kengo Nishigaki, a former partner of Baker & McKenzie, founded GI&T Law Office in 2020 to provide top-notch legal services to clients seeking expert counsel on fraud investigations and anti-corruption. The boutique law firm has a strong presence in Tokyo and an extensive overseas network with offices in Indonesia, Thailand and China.
With three partners, two counsel and two associates, GI&T Law Office has been catering to the legal needs of healthcare and life science clients locally and globally. It has been widely recognised for its exceptional performance in this field.
Recently, the firm conducted a significant internal investigation for major US medical device companies accused of inappropriate interactions with healthcare professionals, potentially constituting bribery. GI&T Law Office also assisted a major listed Japanese pharmaceutical company in developing a comprehensive global compliance system, including a whistleblowing programme covering all regions.
“[GI&T] are very efficient and responsive, with competitive pricing and good quality work; experienced lawyers who are very responsive with good quality work and pricing,” says Dominic Wai, a partner at ONC Lawyers in Hong Kong.
In 2021, Kakuji Mitani established Sparkle Legal, a law firm specialising in corporate legal affairs. With vast experience in handling complex legal matters, including proxy contests and corporate disputes, Mitani has been the driving force behind the firm’s success. The Tokyo-based firm’s legal team comprises Makoto Saito and Kosuke Tsushiro, who have been instrumental in providing support to the firm in the past two years.
Sparkle Legal offers clients a range of tailored legal services. The firm’s areas of expertise include corporate law, M&A, competition and antitrust, dispute resolution, startups, and personal data and privacy. The firm provides clients with personalised legal advice, ensuring their unique needs are met.
“Since its founding by Kakuji Mitani in 2021, Sparkle Legal has been innovative in providing legal advice for complex transactions and disputes,” says Hiroaki Inuyama, chief legal officer for North East Asia (Japan and Korea), at Air Liquide Japan.
Atsumi & Sakai has a rich history dating back to 1994, when Atsumi & Usui was formed, and has been operating as a foreign law joint venture since 2005. The firm started with just five lawyers and has grown to more than 200 professionals including partners, consultants and counsel across Japan, London, New York and Frankfurt offices. With its extensive track record and experience in asset finance transactions, Atsumi & Sakai has established itself as a trusted name in the industry, particularly in the aviation sector.
The firm has a team of experts and specialists who are well versed in the complexities of asset finance law and have successfully handled numerous transactions over the years. Hiroo Atsumi, the firm’s founding partner and managing partner, is a driving force behind its success. With his impressive knowledge and experience in banking, capital markets, and asset finance law, Atsumi has led the team to new heights and earned the respect and trust of clients worldwide.
The firm’s recent notable work has included assisting the Sponsors of Ramky Group, an Indian environmental services and infrastructure developer, on its project to invest USD100 million in SMEs and startups specialising in environmental technologies in Japan.
Clifford Chance, a multinational law firm based in the UK, has been operating in Tokyo since 1987, serving both local and international clients. The Tokyo team has a strong track record across various practice areas including capital markets, corporate finance, litigation and dispute resolution. Co-managing partners Reiko Sakimura and Lai Leng-Fong specialise in capital market products, mainly structured finance transactions, international debt and equity capital markets products.
One of the firm’s latest high-profile representations was advising Daiwa Energy & Infrastructure, a subsidiary of Japan’s Daiwa Securities Group, in the acquisition of debt and equity worth around GBP100 million (USD123.25 million) as part of an investor consortium that acquired 100% of the consortium company Celtic Roads Group (Waterford). In July, the firm also represented Mitsui, a diversified industrial company in Japan, in its 70% acquisition of Nutrinova Netherlands, the European food ingredients business of Celanese Corporation, valued at USD472.5 million.
Hibiya Sogo Law Office is a well-established law firm that has been serving clients in Japan and internationally since 1960. The firm was founded by Ichiro Irie, a former judge and Japan Fair Trade Commission member, focusing on competition law.
The firm specialises in antitrust law and has a dedicated department led by Tsutomu Nakato, a managing partner with a wealth of expertise in anti-competition investigations. Another key department member is Toshiaki Tada, who has extensive experience in competition and antitrust, including merger filings and investigations. The firm has a proven track record of handling various legal matters including litigation, compliance and general corporate legal affairs, and is well supported by 13 partners and four associates. Hibiya Sogo Law Office is known for its commitment to quality and excellence, making it a reliable and effective legal partner for businesses and individuals. Over the years, the firm has assisted large-scale companies such as Japan Airlines subsidiary Axess, and NTT Docomo, a Japanese mobile phone operator.
TMI Associates was established in 1990 and specialises in corporate commercial, data compliance and cyber security, shipping and maritime, technology and media communications, and IP enforcement matters. The firm was started by Katsuro Tanaka, co-founder and senior managing partner, focusing on IP disputes, risk management, copyright and trademarks. Over the years, the firm has grown from 11 lawyers to 1,141 specialists comprising Japanese and foreign attorneys. TMI Associates has expanded its presence to 11 overseas offices in Shanghai, Beijing, Yangon, Singapore, Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, Bangkok, Silicon Valley, London and Paris to serve its international clients. The firm has worked with clients including Ricoh Company, NEC Networks & System Integration Corporation and Zoom Video Communications to provide total solutions related to IP. Recently, TMI Associates acted as the primary legal adviser representing private equity investment firm Japan Industrial Partners in acquiring Toshiba, a major Japanese electronic devices manufacturer, for JPY2 trillion in a take-private deal, with partner Masakazu Iwakura leading the transaction.
Allen & Overy is a magic circle law firm that established its Japan office in 1988. Over the years, the company has provided comprehensive legal services to various clients including corporate clients, financial institutions, trading companies and energy companies. The law firm’s Matthias Voss, a managing partner in the Tokyo office, is an experienced lawyer with over two decades of experience advising clients on energy, natural resource and infrastructure matters.
The Tokyo office has a team of 20 lawyers who provide top-notch legal services to clients. Recently, the firm was involved in advising Japanese utility giant JERA on acquiring Parkwind, Belgium’s largest offshore wind platform, from Virya Energy for USD1.7 billion. The Tokyo team also assisted the Japanese export credit agencies in providing a USD1.4 billion pre-export finance facility to CSN Mineração, one of Brazil’s largest mining companies.
International law firm Milbank established its Tokyo office 40 years ago with a mission to provide exceptional legal services to Japan’s institutions and multinational corporations. The Tokyo office is renowned for handling complex mining, renewable energy and liquefied natural gas projects.
Partner Aled Davies, a crucial team member, has proficiency in project, energy and infrastructure finance and regularly represents clients. In October of this year, Davies led the team to represent the Export-Import Bank of China in a USD300 million loan facility to Africa Finance Corporation, a leading solutions provider in the core infrastructure sectors of power and natural resources, and a USD600 million loan facility to the African Export-Import Bank.
American law firm Latham & Watkins established its Tokyo office in 1995 to cater to clients in cross-border transactions. The firm has more than 600 lawyers operating across Asia, the US, Europe and the Middle East. Marc Jaffe, New York partner and global chair of Latham’s corporate department, said the Tokyo office filled a critical role for the firm’s global clients, many of whom have operations in Japan or strategic alliances with Japanese companies. “We are seeing foreign investors increasingly turn to Japan as an important destination, particularly in the life sciences, healthcare, infrastructure, and gaming sectors.”
Shogo Abe established the Ginza Law Office in 1959, and the firm was renamed Abe Ikubo & Katayama in 1991. The firm is a prominent player in IP law focusing on patent law, and comprises more than 160 members including attorneys at law and patent attorneys. The firm is led by managing partner Yasuhiko Ikubo and partner Eiji Katayama, two highly skilled legal professionals with years of experience in the field. Katayama, in particular, has a diverse client base and has worked on corporate reorganisation cases in insolvency for several prominent companies including Japan Airlines, Azabu, Tsuchiura, Riccar, Maruko, Muramoto Construction and Hokke Club.
Initially established in 1981 in Osaka, Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners was founded by Tadashi Ishikawa, Makoto Miyazaki and Hiroaki Tsukamoto. The three founding partners subsequently opened offices in Shanghai, Tokyo and Nagoya over the years. The firm specialises in restructuring-related matters with a team of 165 professionals including partners, special counsel and Japanese and foreign attorneys.
Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners has extensive experience in dealing with business restructuring and provides professional support to clients in various capacities. One of the deals the firm handled recently was representing Japan Drilling, an offshore drilling contractor, as deputy trustees in its corporate reorganisation proceedings.
Boutique law firm Araki International IP&Law was formed by Akiko Araki in 2021 to support Japanese and international clients as they navigate the global market. The firm specialises in cross-border IP cases including patents, copyrights, trademarks and designs, and has expanded its services to cover new technology areas such as AI and the internet of things. Admitted in Japan and California, Araki serves as the firm’s founder and managing partner, and oversees a team of support staff including a paralegal and an assistant.
In the past year, Araki International has played a vital role in helping companies reach important cross-border deals and settle international IP disputes involving multiple jurisdictions. The firm successfully represented a client in a series of major global patent portfolio licensing and acquisition deals between Japanese and foreign companies. It also assisted this client in settling multijurisdictional patent litigations in several countries including the US and Germany.
Ohno & Partners is one of the leading IP law firms in Japan. It was founded in Tokyo by Seiji Ohno in 2000. Ohno, the managing partner, is renowned for his expertise in IP litigation, particularly in patent, copyright, trademark and trade secrets. The firm has a team of 26 professionals, including attorneys-at-law and patent attorneys who have counselled clients in complex cases involving information technology, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and cross-industrial technologies.
Taiyo, Nakajima & Kato is an IP law firm located in Tokyo. Jun Nakajima founded the firm in 1981 with only three staff members, and the firm has grown to nearly 200 staff members including Japanese and foreign patent attorneys. In the past four decades, the firm has offered a wide range of services in IP law, including litigation, patent, unfair competition prevention, trademark and service marks.
Hiromichi Kuroda, one of the firm’s key figures in IP litigations, has a distinguished record in IP cases and has advised clients in more than 30 points of patent infringement litigation and more than 75 invalidation trials. The firm has primary locations in Tokyo and Yokohama as well as the United States to expand its services.
Aoyama & Partners is a law firm specialising in IP. It was founded in Osaka in 1965 by Tamotsu Aoyama as Aoyama Patent Firm and was renamed Aoyama & Partners in 1982. With more than 300 professionals, the firm is led by co-CEOs Hiroshi Tamura and Norihito Yamao, who have played a vital role in its growth and success. Aoyama & Partners boasts a team of more than 100 patent attorneys with a wealth of experience handling complex patent applications and litigations.
Over the years, the firm has successfully taken more than 180,000 patent applications, a testament to its exceptional legal services. Aoyama & Partners has also been involved in international litigation across various jurisdictions including the US, Germany, France, the UK, China, South Korea, Australia, Thailand and Brazil, further enhancing its reputation as a leading IP law firm.
“I have been working with various partners in this firm for a very long time and they deserve to be recognised for their excellent services,” says Titirat Wattanachewanopakorn, a partner at ILCT in Thailand.
City-Yuwa Partners is a law firm that specialises in patent litigation. The firm was established in 2003 due to the merger between Yuwa Partners and the Law Department of Tokyo City Law & Tax Partners. Later, in 2005, it merged with Ohba Ozaki & Shimasue, a patent litigation firm. Today, City-Yuwa Partners is home to 173 professionals including judicial scriveners and foreign attorneys. The firm is an expert in IP, litigation, alternative dispute resolution, and all aspects of international and domestic business transactions. In early 2023, the firm welcomed Takashi Soga, who is experienced in M&A matters and antitrust related to Chinese practice.
“Excellence in the field of law isn’t just about expertise; it’s about a commitment to justice, innovation, and unwavering dedication,” says Thanyaluck Thongrompo, a partner at Kudun and Partners in Thailand. “We proudly nominate City-Yuwa Partners as the Japanese law firm of the year for their exceptional legal prowess, pioneering spirit, and relentless pursuit of justice.”
“City Yuwa is an excellent law firm with top-calibre lawyers who provided practical legal advice with a sharp business mind. Very impressive team,” adds Kudub partner Troy Schooneman.
Marks IP Law Firm is a highly specialised boutique law firm focusing exclusively on IP matters, with offices in Osaka and Tokyo. Launched in 2016, the firm has built a reputation as a leading expert in trademark law, including prosecution and litigation of such cases. The firm’s founder, Masaki Mikami, is a distinguished IP attorney with extensive experience in trademark law practice, advising and representing numerous clients over the years.
Marks IP Law Firm provides tailored IP counselling services that cover a wide range of trademark-related issues. These services include trademark searches, licensing strategies and enforcement of trademarks, among other things. The firm is also known for its successful collaborations with reputable foreign lawyers from various countries and jurisdictions including China, South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. In one of its most notable achievements, Marks IP Law Firm represented Cartier, a renowned French luxury goods brand, in a trademark infringement lawsuit at the Tokyo District Court in March 2023.
Uchida & Samejima is a law firm in Tokyo established in 2004 by Hiroshi Uchida and Masahiro Samejima, who work closely with technology companies. The firm has a team of 35 professionals including partners, patent attorneys, counsel and associates. Almost all of its attorneys have a technological background in electronics, chemicals or machinery. The firm has a global presence as it is a member of LawExchange International, a network of independent law firms that provide legal advice across Asia, Europe, North and South America, and the Middle East.
Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo is a well-regarded boutique law firm founded in 2017. The firm has a proven track record of advising international clients on various legal matters in Japan such as disputes and investigations, employment issues, regulatory affairs and corporate matters.
Along with its 11 highly skilled attorneys, the firm’s founders, Akiko Yamakawa, Kazuki Okada and Naoki Kinami provide exceptional legal services in Japan and overseas, including in the US, the UK, Europe, Hong Kong and Singapore. Yamakawa’s unparalleled expertise lies in employment law, while Okada specialises in dispute resolution and labour law. Kinami’s more than 40 years of extensive experience in international finance and corporate M&A add to the firm’s competency.
Daiichi Legal Professional Corporation was founded in Osaka in 1964. It is a full-service commercial law firm that works with domestic and global companies through its offices in Tokyo and Osaka. The firm has a team of about 40 professionals including counsel, partners and associates who focus on labour and employment, criminal defence, and white-collar crimes such as public corruption, mortgage fraud, healthcare fraud, money laundering and securities fraud. One notable figure with expertise in handling white-collar crime matters is Katsuya Yanagihara, who previously worked as a public prosecutor at the Ministry of Justice in Vietnam.
In 2019, Michihiro Mori and some former partners from Nishimura & Asahi founded AI-EI Law. The firm started with 10 lawyers and has since grown to 16 professionals, with its headquarters in Tokyo. As the founder and representative attorney, Mori specialises in insolvency, litigation, labour law and civil law enforcement matters. Before joining the firm, he served as a judge in the Tokyo District Court and the Civil Division of the Supreme Court. AI-EI Law is a growing firm specialising in litigation and dispute resolution, including international litigation, administrative litigation/tax litigation and cryptocurrency-related disputes.
Southgate is a law firm established in 2016 to provide legal assistance in cross-border matters, focusing on venture capital, M&A and commercial issues. The firm’s founders, Eric Marcks and the late Mangyo Kinoshita, US and Japan-qualified lawyers, respectively, combined their experiences to create an international firm with Japanese law capabilities. The firm serves clients from Japan and overseas who are searching for international legal advice. One of the firm’s main areas of expertise is venture capital, providing solutions for inbound and outbound investments, limited partnership investments and overseas venture capital funds.
International law firm Withers established its Tokyo office in 2015, focusing on private equity and venture capital. Since then, the firm has expanded its services, and in early 2023 it launched its Japan Desk, allowing the Tokyo and Singapore teams to work together to offer legal advice primarily to Japanese clients on cross-border transactions. The Investment Management Group at Withers is highly regarded among premier international law firms in Tokyo and provides legal advice on complex Japanese economic laws and regulatory issues to domestic and international investment managers and financial institutions.
Greenberg Traurig, an international law firm with multiple practices, established its Tokyo office in 2015. The firm provides strategic advice and legal services in the Japanese market with a global perspective. Koji Ishikawa, the firm’s managing shareholder, specialises in M&A and capital market matters. He has extensive experience handling cross-border transactions and advising clients in the technology sector. The firm places great emphasis on its real estate practice. It enriched its team in mid-2023 by including Yuko Ino, a former head of Orrick’s Tokyo real estate team, and Koh Ueda, an attorney with real estate and securitisation expertise. Joel H Rothstein is an international real estate and structured finance lawyer, and chair of the firm’s real estate practice. He advises financial institutions, private equity funds, sovereign wealth funds, real estate developers and investors across all major Asia markets.
“We have working experience with Greenberg Traurig Tokyo Law Offices for a variety of matters, in particular due diligence exercises,” says Yang Wen-Hsuan, counsel at Chien Yeh Law Offices in Taiwan. “The team provides a flexible fee proposal and delivers the work in accordance with the specific need for a matter.”
Hiratsuka & Co is a boutique law firm specialising in international shipping and maritime-related issues. The firm was founded in 1976 by Makoto Hiratsuka, who has served as a senior partner and has extensive experience handling a wide range of maritime disputes including collisions, fires and cargo claims. Makoto is also actively involved in arbitration proceedings and Japanese courts. International insurance companies and law offices in the UK, the US, Norway, Russia, Singapore, Australia and China recognise the firm’s reputation.
With a history of more than three decades, Okabe & Yamaguchi has been a prominent law firm since its inception in 1987, operating under the name Okabe Law Office. In 1990, the firm transformed into Okabe & Yamaguchi. Since its inception, the firm has established itself as a leading legal entity specialising in maritime law. The firm’s expertise includes cargo claims, marine disputes, and ship sales and purchases, making it a go-to law firm for clients requiring legal services.
The managing partner, Shuji Yamaguchi, is a seasoned legal professional with vast knowledge and experience in international maritime transport and execution proceedings, such as ship arrests. He leads a team of 11 legal professionals including partners, associates and marine counsellors. The team is dedicated to assisting clients in providing global legal services in maritime, aviation, logistics and insurance sectors in Japan and around the world.
Yoshida & Partners is a law firm specialising in maritime and commercial matters, with a long history of representing Japanese shipowners and underwriters in significant cases. The firm was founded in 1924 by Seizo Yoshida, a maritime lawyer based in Kobe. In 1969, Yoichi Ogawa, an experienced professional in the marine industry, joined the firm as a partner.
Since then, Yoshida & Partners has become one of the leading law firms in the field, handling marine casualties, cargo claims, charter parties and wreck removal cases. The firm’s 11 members, including eight attorneys-at-law, two marine counsellors and one adviser, have expertise in both national and international maritime and commercial law practices. They provide expert legal services to clients, which include leading Japanese, overseas and multinational shipowners and operators, protection and indemnity clubs, hull insurance underwriters, trading houses and financial institutions.
Linklaters is a global law firm headquartered in the UK. It established its Tokyo office in 1987 to provide comprehensive legal services to clients in Japan and internationally in capital markets, private equity, financial market regulations and investment funds. The firm has been involved in many of Japan’s most significant cases in the past 30 years including structured finance and securitisation, acquisition finance and general corporate advice.
Peter Frost serves as the Tokyo team’s managing partner and has almost two decades of experience in the Japanese market’s debt, equity, and equity-linked capital transactions. In May of this year, Linklaters advised Actis, a leading global investor in sustainable infrastructure, on establishing a new renewables platform in Japan called Nozomi Energy. The platform is valued at USD500 million.
Jones Day is an American law firm that has been providing legal services to companies operating in Japan and international markets since 1989. Its Tokyo office merged with Showa Law Office in 2002 to become one of Japan’s most reputable law firms. Jones Day has a team of experts in various areas of law including taxation, M&A, cross-border transactions, antitrust and government regulation, who help clients navigate complex legal matters.
The Tokyo team is led by partners Hiromitsu Miyakawa and Chris Ahern, who have extensive experience in antitrust and corporate law. Jones Day recently helped DIC Corporation acquire PCAS Canada, a chemical manufacturer based in Quebec, for €82 million (USD87 million), demonstrating the firm’s ability to deliver outstanding results for its clients.
So & Sato Law Offices is a boutique law firm that provides legal services to companies operating in the rapidly evolving metaverse business. Founded in 2015 by So Saito, an expert in innovation, technology, fintech and blockchain, the firm has a team of 12 highly qualified professionals dedicated to providing exceptional legal services to their clients, including Japanese and foreign associates. The firm has been at the forefront of fintech and blockchain-related matters, offering comprehensive legal advice and support to companies looking to navigate the complex regulatory landscape in these areas.
The firm’s team recently welcomed William Gillespie, a highly experienced senior counsel with a proven track record in international disputes. Gillespie’s appointment has further boosted the firm’s expertise and capabilities, providing its clients with even more comprehensive legal services. As one of the leading Web3 firms, So & Sato Law Offices has worked with various Web3 companies including bitFlyer, HashPort, Double Jump Tokyo and Sand Box, providing them with expert legal advice and support. The firm’s expertise extends beyond Web3, and it has also advised clients on issues related to exchange regulation, non-fungible tokens, blockchain games, stablecoins and decentralised finance.