Herbert Smith exits continue as former Tokyo head quits for Bingham

Herbert Smith’s former Tokyo managing partner Steve Lewis, who until recently was leading the firm’s Brazil initiative, has left the firm to join Bingham.

Following his 10 years as Tokyo office managing partner, Lewis relocated to London last year to review Herbert Smith’s options for developing a presence in Latin America, with a particular focus on Brazil. Peter Godwin, who was head of the firm’s Tokyo dispute resolution practice, was then elected to take over the top role in Tokyo.

Lewis will join Bingham as a partner and will spend his time between the firm’s London and Tokyo offices. In Tokyo, Bingham has a 68-lawyer foreign law joint enterprise known as Bingham McCutchen Murase, Sakai Mimura Aizawa. Most of the lawyers in Tokyo are Japanese bengoshi.

Lewis’s practice focuses primarily on M&A and during his time at Herbert Smith he worked on transactions for many large Japanese companies, including Sumitomo, NTT DoCoMo, Mitsui Itochu, Marubeni and INPEX.

Lewis’s departure comes in the same week that Herbert Smith partners gave the green light to the firm’s merger with Freehills (28 June 2012). He is the latest high-level partner who has left Herbert Smith in Asia. Earlier this week, TheLawyer.com reported that Herbert Smith’s long-serving Shanghai partner Simon Meng also resigned (25 June 2012).

Herbert Smith declined to comment on Lewis’s departure or the future of the firm’s Brazil initiative. It is understood that the integration with Freehills, as well as the firm’s plans for launches in US and Korea, will have a higher priority.