UK-BASED McKenna & Co has announced a raft of changes to its international practice, including the closure of its Tokyo office.
The office, which opened in October 1987, will close in spring and its resident head Leo Simpson and solicitor Andrew Levy will return to London where the firm operates a substantial Japanese desk.
The firm will split its Japanese portfolio between London and its Hong Kong office, which will become the firm's base for work in the Far East and South East Asia.
Other changes to the practice include the relocation of the firm's Moscow office to larger premises, and appointments in its Warsaw and Hong Kong offices.
Partner Stephen Forster has also been relocated to Budapest, where he will head both the firm's Budapest and Prague offices.
Managing partner Robert Derry-Evans says the decision to close the Tokyo office, which services clients including construction companies and corporations, was reached after Japan revealed that it would not sufficiently liberalise the rules permitting foreign lawyers to operate in the country.
Derry-Evans says the office was originally opened to assist with the introduction of clients to the firm's Japanese practice in London and Hong Kong, and to maintain relations with the Tokyo head offices of McKennas' Japanese client base.
It was also designed to provide a local service for client activities in the Asia Pacific region.
However, he says the firm has since developed a strong Japanese practice outside Tokyo which does not rely on the office.
McKennas will continue its association with the Tsubaki Law Office which is based in an adjacent office to the Tokyo practice, and it is hoped a referral relationship will be maintained between the two firms.
"The prospect of any further liberalisation in the forseeable future looks remote and this factor reinforces our view that the correct business decision is to close our Tokyo office now," says Derry-Evans.
"However, we shall be maintaining our association in Tokyo with the Tsubaki Law office with whom we have been working closely for a number of years and we remain committed to the continuing development of our Japanese practice.
"Closing down in Japan is, by no means, to be seen as closing down in the Far East."