Lovells is to enter Japan’s domestic legal market through a merger with local firm Kubota Law & Patent.

The existing Tokyo office will bring on bengoshi partner Eiichiro Kubota in addition to seven associates as of 1 January 2008. Lawyers include Mizue Kakiuchi, Yusuke Inui, Masahito Imai, Daisuke Kumagi and Hirotaka Noguchi. Two others have accepted offers, but no formal contract has been signed on their appointments.

Kubota specialises in IP, with a focus on patent litigation. Lovells has worked with the firm’s founding partner Kubota for some time. Tokyo office head Lloyd Parker said: “The merger has become a very natural progression.”

Parker expects the IP team to grow to a total of 16 lawyers over the coming months: “By next year we’ll be one of the top three biggest IP practices,” he said. Further expansion is on the cards, particularly in the corporate, projects and dispute resolution sectors.

According to Lovells it has been difficult to find high quality Japanese lawyers due to quotas at the Japanese bar and a lack of either English language skills or international orientation among many local lawyers.