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Asia Insight: Foreign Law Firms May Be Allowed To Open Multiple Offices in Japan

by on May 20, 2010

It has recently been announced that foreign law firms may be allowed to operate multiple offices in Japan.  The Japan Ministry of Justice will be introducing  amendments later in the year that will ease restrictions on foreign firms and which could take effect as early as 2012.   Many firms are interested in expanding into Osaka, which has a number of large corporations and a relatively small number of big law firms.

Mark Weeks, managing partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe in Tokyo, recently was quoted in an ALB article:

“‘There are a lot of manufacturing clients in that [Western] region and it would therefore be an obvious place for foreign firms to consider opening a second office, if and when the market opens up. For any decision to open another office in Japan would always be driven by client needs and we will definitely look at opportunities, but you really need to find the right people to make the endeavor worthwhile. ‘”

The article also pointed out a problem firms will face trying to expand outside of Tokyo:

“But many believe ‘finding the right people’ to anchor an Osaka office an international law firm could prove a difficult task.  ‘Once you get out of Tokyo, finding the right people becomes a difficult proposition’ said a partner at a local Japanese law firm. ‘If you have a family, there are major quality of life, quality of education differences between somewhere like Osaka and Tokyo. This would make staffing an office out there very difficult for international law firms,’ the partner continued pointing out that it is with good reason that many Tokyo-based local law firms have chosen to not open there despite having the opportunity to do so. ”

Despite the obstacles, and the fact that these new rules will not take effect for at least two years, Japan is someplace to keep an eye on for attorneys considering working in Japan.  Asian markets, and Japan in particular, are experiencing an uptick and we think that no law firms or companies will be able to ignore the possibility of expanding their operations in Tokyo, Osaka and perhaps other Japanese cities.

Your thoughts?

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From → Asia Insight, tokyo

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