Sidley teams up with Japanese firm

Sidley Austin Brown & Wood is upping the ante in Japan with a joint venture in Tokyo. The team of lawyers will be led by Komatsu Koma & Nishikawa name partner Tomoo Nishikawa.

The team includes three bengoshi from Komatsu (Nishikawa plus Wansik Lee and Tadano Shima) and a fourth, Teiko Shigezumi, from Osaka firm Yodoyabashi Gohdoh. The firm is also in negotiations with two further Japanese lawyers.

Sidley, which has two partners and two associates in the region, has had a Tokyo office for more than 10 years, but has not previously had a formal alliance with a firm there.

The firm is looking to bolster its presence in the region, predicting that within the next two years it will have 25 Japanese and international lawyers based there, most of whom will be Japanese.

“You can't get ahead by parachuting in a bunch of people from your other offices,” said the managing partner of Sidley's Tokyo office Mark Schultz. “Eventually we'd expect the office to be led by a Japanese bengoshi, and of the 25 we expect a large proportion to be Japanese.”

The departure of the three bengoshi from Komatsu comes hot on the heels of the firm's merger with fellow Japanese practice Asahi Law Offices on 1 October. The deal created Japan's third-largest practice.

“There's been a bit of a scramble to get big,” said Schultz. “Japanese firms feel they have to get much larger to cope with globalisation.”

Nishikawa comes with a wealth of experience and contacts in Japan's legal network. Prior to Komatsu, he was managing partner of Anderson Mori, another leading Japanese firm. He has also worked for the government in a number of roles and was integral in the formation of the Financial Services Agency and the nationalisation and sale of the Long-Term Credit Bank of Japan and the Nippon Credit Bank.

To fit in with Japanese regulations, the Japanese lawyers will operate under the name Nishikawa & Partners as an associated office of Sidley.