Baker & McKenzie's alliance partner in Tokyo is to merge with one of Japan's oldest firms.
Tokyo Aoyama Law Office, which was established as the joint enterprise partner of Baker & McKenzie in 1972, will officially merge with Aoki & Partners on 1 May.
The new practice will consist of more than 70 lawyers and will be known as Tokyo Aoyama Aoki Law Office. Its relationship with the global firm will remain unchanged.
Chairman of Baker & McKenzie's executive committee Christine Lagarde welcomed the news, adding: "This merger will enable us to deliver better and enhanced capital market services to our international clients."
Aoki specialises in finance law, particularly securities - a growth area for most firms throughout Asia. Tokyo Aoyama is broader in its approach, covering a range of areas including M&A, intellectual property/IT, project finance, financial products and tax.
Aoki name partner Kunio Aoki says that a need to service more markets prompted the merger.
He says: "With demand increasing and diversifying as a result of financial innovation and the establishment of new markets, we are faced with the need to further strengthen our operating base. The merger with Tokyo Aoyama Law Office is a means to that end."
Four years ago, Baker & McKenzie was granted regulatory approval by the Japanese Ministry of Justice to operate as a foreign law firm under its own name (The Lawyer, 14 January 1997).
A range of firms, particularly those in the US, have been attempting to cash in on the Japanese market.
Last year alone saw two major US firms focus on Japan. Washington DC practice Hogan & Hartson announced its intention to open in Tokyo (The Lawyer, 26 June 2000) and Skadden Arps' Tokyo office took two partners from Morgan Lewis & Bockius and Paul Hastings Janofsky & Walker (The Lawyer, 31 July 2000).