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09 December 2020

Anderson Mori unveils foreign law enterprise to boost status of its US, UK and China qualified lawyers

Top Japanese firm says overseas lawyers can now be partners, creating a more 'diverse and inclusive' practice

By John Malpas

Night cityscape of Tokyo

Tokyo Shutterstock; chanyut Sribua-rawd

Leading Japanese firm Anderson Mori & Tomotsune is setting up a foreign law joint enterprise in a move that will allow its foreign lawyers to enjoy partner status.

The firm says the measure, which will go live on 1 January, is in line with its track record for advising on cross-border deals and will help to make it a ‘truly global, diverse, and inclusive organisation’.

A number of international law firms, including Clifford Chance, Paul Hastings and Baker McKenzie, use the joint enterprise vehicle to ally with local lawyers – or bengoshi – in Tokyo in order to provide local law advice, but it is believed to be rare for Japanese firms to adopt the same structure to accommodate their overseas-qualified lawyers.

An Anderson Mori spokesperson said: “This launch will enable AMT’s Japanese lawyers and registered foreign lawyers to establish a true and equal partnership allowing our firm to maximize our legal abilities and human resources in an effort to continue serving our clients to the best of our abilities, in particular in cross-border matters."

The Tokyo-headquartered firm has more than 500 lawyers with branch offices in Osaka and Nagoya in Japan and international offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok. 

In June, it launched a Singapore alliance with local practice DOP Law Corporation allowing it offer local law advice and it has similar arrangements in Jakarta and Hong Kong.

The firm has US, UK and Chinese qualified lawyers on its books and lists eight senior foreign counsel. They include Tokyo-based former Allen & Overy senior associate Teruma Naito, who is an English qualified finance specialist, and former Slaughter and May associate Vassili Moussi, who specialises in EU competition law.

Also on the roster is Hiroko Nakamura, a Hong Kong and English qualified lawyer, who launched its associate Hong Kong office, Nakamura & Associates, in December last year.

In a statement, the firm said the joint enterprise launch demonstrated its ‘strong commitment to eliminate any remaining barriers between Japanese lawyers and the designated registered foreign lawyers and to further establish ourselves as a truly global, diverse, and inclusive organization’.

It added: ‘Looking ahead, we are committed to actively recruit talented foreign qualified lawyers who are passionate about building bridges between Japan and the rest of the world to strengthen and enhance our cross-border practice and closely meet our clients’ needs that are increasingly becoming more complex.’

The joint enterprise will be officially called Anderson Mori & Tomotsune Gaikokuho-Kyodo-Jigyo but its English name will remain Anderson Mori & Tomotsune.

Atsumi & Sakai became the first Japanese law firm to create a foreign law joint venture in 2015. Earlier this year, Japan introduced a law that allows foreign lawyers to act in a broader range of arbitrations and reduces the amount of experience they need to be registered.

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