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Simmons & Simmons is setting up a joint venture with leading Japanese firm TMI Associates to spearhead a massive expansion plan in the country.
The firm is linking up with the 44-lawyer M&A and intellectual property (IP) practice, and plans to relocate a host of other structured finance lawyers into Japan before the new year. Talks with TMI have been underway since January, although the two firms have worked closely together for three years. Simmons lawyers Jason Daniel and Nick Westlake are already working at TMI, while TMI associate Masaki Yoshino recently moved to Simmons on secondment. The link-up is the first joint venture between a major Japanese firm and a firm from the UK, and the two practices already share a list of joint clients. Simmons has recently been instructed on a deal in its Hong Kong office for TMI client Soft-bank after it was referred from TMI. Both firms have also handled a lot of work for Mitsubishi Corporation.
"If you're doing big M&A deals in Japan, ultimately you need the critical mass to do that" Charles Fuller, Simmons & Simmons
TMI has 12 partners and is led by managing partner Katsuro Tanaka, while Simmons' local office will be headed by partner Rikako Beppu, who has been with the firm in London since qualification. London corporate partner Charles Fuller, who has been instrumental in the negotiations, said: "We've always felt that to get properly into the Japanese market we wanted to have access to a real Japanese local law capability. If you're doing big M&A deals in Japan, ultimately you need the critical mass to do that. We always felt that we needed access to a full-service outfit." Other large UK firms such as Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have set up joint ventures with local lawyers who have quit their existing firms. And most international firms in the region have focused on finance work rather than corporate. Fuller said: "We're going to be relocating people there early in the new year to establish a structured finance practice and start doing securitisation. That's where we can really bring something to the table. We would expect senior people to be going over there." He added that discussions were underway with individuals concerning relocation, but he refused to name names. They will move from the firm's Hong Kong office and possibly from Europe.