US firm Dorsey & Whitney has become the latest to secure a Japanese joint venture. The recently finalised agreement with Japanese firm Kyo Sogo Law Offices will provide Dorsey with a Japanese law capacity.
Dorsey opened a Japanese office in 1999, but the joint venture with Kyo Sogo will give it access to Japanese lawyers, known in the country as bengoshi. Kyo Sogo has three partners: Kozo Toyama, Noriko Higash-izawa, both formerly with Konaka Toyama & Hosoya, and Osamu Higuchi. Two additional associates will work for the joint venture.
Dorsey's three-partner Tokyo office will work with Kyo Sogo in a variety of areas, including corporate restructuring, M&A, e-commerce, telecoms and litigation. According to the co-chair of Dorsey's international corporate group Bob Dwyer, the “rising prominence of complex corporate and technology work in the Tokyo market” was the key factor in the decision to look for a Japanese partner.
Dwyer said that he expects the joint venture to service Dorsey's US, Chinese, European and domestic Japanese clients. The firm boasts a modest but growing client list of financial institutions, private equity firms and technology companies.
“Dorsey has a growing reputation for representing companies from start-up to maturity”
Kozo Toyama, Kyo Sogo Law Offices
Toyama pointed to the liberalisation of the Japanese markets as a key to his decision to sign up with a foreign outfit. He said: “Dorsey has a growing reputation for representing companies from start-up to maturity, in connection with incorporation, joint ventures, licensing agreements and structuring.”
Dorsey's move comes on the back of a flurry of joint venture agreements between US and UK firms and Japanese domestic lawyers. Law firms hope to capitalise on increasingly globalised attitudes at Japanese companies, which are moving to list in New York and London.
Foreign direct investors are also using the economic crisis to move in to the Japanese market. Firms without Japanese partners are under increasing pressure to find them.