Denton Wilde Sapte has been left reeling after the collapse of Denton Hall's Tokyo office, as revealed on The Lawyer's website (26 January).
Herbert Smith has raided the office and is establishing its first operation in the city.
Managing partner David Lewis, the only partner in the office, is taking 10 assistants and support staff with him.
Denton Wilde Sapte international managing partner David Moroney confirms that Lewis' decision to leave was prompted by his disapproval of the merger, which is due to go live on Tuesday (1 February).
He adds Lewis was “disappointed” he was not made head of the new Tokyo office which was to be created out of combining Denton Hall and Wilde Sapte's operations.
The merged firm will still have an office in the city, but it will consist only of Wilde Sapte's team. Wilde Sapte's Tokyo managing partner Phil Quirk will keep his position.
Moroney says: “Steve had not been in favour of the merger. We tried for some time to get him to sign up but he was concerned about the management issues.
“I came out here last week to have further discussions and it was then that I learnt he was going to Herbert Smith.”
In December Wilde Sapte's Hong Kong office collapsed after the partners departed for Brown & Wood and Kennedys.
But Moroney denies that the collapse of the Tokyo office is a blow coming so soon after Hong Kong.
He says: “Of course we are disappointed but the Hong Kong office was quite small and Denton Hall's was much larger. The major clients were essentially Denton Hall's.”
Herbert Smith already has offices in Beijing, Singapore and Bangkok, and an associated operation in Jakarta.
Herbert Smith's head of Asia, David Willis, says: “This is a unique opportunity to take on board a well-established team of lawyers with proven experience of the Japanese market.”
Denton Wilde Sapte is not planning to replace Lewis and his team but Moroney says: “Expansion plans will continue.”
Both firms have small presences in Brussels which will join forces on 1 February. Denton Hall's head, Blanche Sas, will run the operation.