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Two of Japan's biggest domestic firms have agreed a merger that will catapult them to the top of the country's premier league.
The two firms, Mori Sogo and Hamada & Matsumoto, will merge by 1 January 2003, creating a full service firm with more than 140 lawyers. The firms will operate in an exclusive alliance until that time. Consolidation of the Japanese legal market has been expected for some time in response to increased foreign competition. Current laws prevent foreign firms from giving advice on domestic Japanese law. Foreign direct investors have needed to use a combination of advice from Japanese and international firms. However, foreign law firms have attempted to circumvent these strictures by forming alliances with Japanese firms. Jones Day Reavis & Pogue and Simmons & Simmons have secured this type of deal. In the medium term, Japan may be forced to open up its legal market under free trade pressures.