SLAUGHTER and May is closing the doors on its Tokyo office and sending local partner Mark Keeler to Singapore to start a new practice.
The move is the second international closure for the partnership this year, following the April shutdown of its presence in Frankfurt.
The future of Tokyo office head Peter Grindrod has not yet been announced, but executive partner George Renwick said Grindrod would have “an important part to play” in the firm's plans.
He said the seven-year-old office's caseload had not met projected levels and this was the reason for dismantling.
“With the economic difficulties in Japan and the general reduction in the level of overseas development by Japanese companies and banks, the amount of business we were hoping to get through our Tokyo office hasn't been what we thought that it would,” said Renwick.
He said the firm was currently negotiating for premises in Singapore's main financial centre, Raffles Place, and it was likely it would open there by the end of the year.
When a site has been found Keeler will transfer to Singapore and London partner Simon Hall will also move.
The Singapore office will concentrate on project finance, and take on some capital markets work, currently core to the Tokyo practice.
Renwick said any Tokyo reopening would depend on the Japanese economy.
“Whether it will ever return to times when it is sensible for London law firms to have a Tokyo office, I can't say. I would have thought some day down the road it would, but we concluded that though there might be light at the end of the tunnel, it might be a very long tunnel.”