Freshfields nets Tokyo firm

Freshfields has acquired a small Japanese law firm in a bid to become the first UK firm to practice Japanese law in its Tokyo office. The firm has hired Naoki Kimani, a senior bengoshi (Japanese lawyer) and his team of two paralegals and two assistants.

Kinami, who has practiced international law for 20 years, has worked for a number of major Japanese commercial banks, insurance companies, and US/UK investment banks.

Freshfields joins other firms in Tokyo which have gone down this route after Japan changed its rules on hiring local lawyers.

US firms White & Case, Sullivan & Cromwell and Baker & McKenzie already have a Japanese capacity as does French firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.

However, Freshfields chief executive Alan Peck said the move made the firm the first to be able to advise on Japanese, UK and US law.

Freshfields has had a small office in Tokyo for 10 years, but like all foreign firms it has struggled.

Over the past five years many firms have pulled out of Japan due to the flagging economy and the high costs of maintaining an office there.

Peck said: “The office is now getting busier and busier and is benefiting enormously from securitisations as well as straight commercial work.”

He said the firm was planning to recruit more Japanese lawyers.

It would probably target law graduates as it was difficult to hire bengoshi because there were so few of them.