Bird & Bird adds Ashurst corporate partner for Tokyo launch

Office to handle outbound work for Japanese clients as UK firm aims to reach €1bn revenue in five years

Bird & Bird is set to open an office in Tokyo before the end of the year, hiring corporate partner Hiro Iwamura from Ashurst to launch the new base. 

The launch marks the firm’s first international expansion as part of the five-year strategy it unveiled in February, which includes the goal of reaching €1bn in revenue within the next five years. 

“We’re kicking off our new five-year strategy as we mean to continue – purposeful, intentional growth in key markets where our clients are thriving,” said Bird & Bird CEO, Christian Bartsch. “Japan is a dynamic, tech-rich country, and as Japanese clients increasingly look to expand internationally, it’s right that we put down roots alongside them to help them achieve their international ambitions.”

The office will support Japanese clients with outbound cross-border work in Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific in core sectors for the firm including renewable energy, life sciences, technology and media.

It will focus on transactional, IP, dispute resolution and data protection work, as well as digital transformation, autonomous driving and global compliance. 

Iwamura has joined the firm after 14 years at Ashurst and brings extensive experience advising Japanese companies entering the UK and EU markets through M&A and joint ventures. He also provides day-to-day legal advice to Japanese clients ranging from general contract reviews, compliance advice and corporate reorganisations to dispute resolution and employment matters. 

Iwamura is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales as well as an attorney in New York. He is also a registered foreign lawyer in Japan and admitted to the Tokyo Bar Association. Before joining Ashurst he spent five years as an associate at legacy Herbert Smith, having begun his career in New York at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman. 

“Hiro is a brilliant addition to our partnership and will help successfully steer our Tokyo office in the months ahead. We look forward to him joining us,” Bartsch said.

He added: “We see a really prosperous future in the region. Our offering of IP, tech transactions and M&A, together with our geographical spread across Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific and willingness to mobilise truly global teams is unique in the market, and one which we are well placed to deliver.”

Bird & Bird plans to recruit more partners and associates for the new office, which will be its 33rd globally and sixth in the region after Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Sydney. 

The firm said the team on the ground in Tokyo would “act as conduits between Japanese clients and the rest of our international network” and enable closer collaboration with the Tokyo office of its consulting arm, OXYGY.  

Bird & Bird would have to raise turnover 75% over the next five years to hit its €1bn target. The firm houses more than 1,400 lawyers globally and grew revenue 9% to €573m last year, down from 15% growth the year before. 

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