Debevoise launches three-lawyer Tokyo office

US firm Debevoise & Plimpton has launched an office in Tokyo with three lawyers relocating from New York.

Debevoise’s new Tokyo office will be led by corporate partner Christopher Smeall and counsel Naomi Aoyama, who have relocated from the firm’s New York office for the latest expansion. Both lawyers are New York qualified and have been advising clients on Japan-related matters for decades.

Smeall is also a registered gaikokuho jimu bengoshi (foreign lawyer) with the Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association, while Aoyama is a Japanese bengoshi and a member of the Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association. Prior to joining Debevoise in 1999, Aoyama practised at Japanese firm Nishimura & Asahi.

Debevoise’s Tokyo office is set up as a joint venture office under the name of Debevoise & Plimpton Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo Horitsu Jimusho (foreign law joint enterprise law office), enabling it to hire Japanese lawyers and offer Japanese law advice.

The office, initially staffed with three lawyers, focuses primarily on transactional matters, such as M&A, financing and investment, as well as corporate governance.

“Our firm has had a significant Japan-related practice for decades, and opening an office in Tokyo will allow us to provide even better support and service to our clients located in Japan or engaged in matters relating to Japan,” said Debevoise presiding partner Michael Blair.

Recent Japan-related deals the firm has acted on include advising Mitsui in selling Transfreight North America to Penske Logistics and advising Protective Life Corporation in its sale to Dai-ichi Life Insurance for $5.8bn.

The Tokyo office is Debevoise’s third location in Asia and ninth globally.

A number of other international firms have also launched an office in Tokyo in the past year, including King & Spalding and offshore firm Harneys.