Watson Farley & Williams hires White & Case asset finance team for Tokyo debut

UK firm follows up Seoul launch in February with new office focused on aviation and maritime finance work
Night cityscape of Tokyo

Tokyo Shutterstock; chanyut Sribua-rawd

Top 40 UK law firm Watson Farley & Williams (WFW) has added a team of lawyers including two partners from White & Case to open in Tokyo. 

The new office – the firm’s 19th worldwide – will initially focus on asset and structured finance in the aviation and maritime sectors, offering both Japanese and English law capabilities. 

WFW said Japan was a ‘key jurisdiction’ for those sectors and that its long-standing relationships in the country provided it with ‘an excellent starting point’ from which to build a strong presence in Japan. 

The office will be led by partners Simon Collins and Keisuke Imon; Collins has relocated from WFW’s Hong Kong base having rejoined the firm last year from White & Case, while Imon joined WFW in Tokyo last April. 

Joining them for the launch is counsel Shusuke Fukunaga and a team of associates and paralegals, most of whom previously worked for White & Case. 

Senior partner George Paleokrassas commented: “We are extremely excited to be opening in Tokyo with such a first-class team, giving us a strong presence on the ground in the world’s third largest economy and reinforcing our dominance in asset finance across Asia. 

“In addition to our maritime practice, we now have the largest aviation finance practice in the Asia Pacific region. Following our opening in Seoul in February, this latest expansion highlights WFW’s commitment to the Asia Pacific region and its importance to our business.”

England and Wales-qualified Collins advises clients on cross-border aviation and maritime finance transactions, including asset and project finance, structured lending, leasing and commercial transactions. Noted as a leading asset finance lawyer in Asia by legal rankings guides including The Legal 500 and Chambers and Partners, he rejoined WFW last May after 17 years at White & Case, having earlier been an associate at WFW in London and Singapore.

Meantime Japan-qualified Imon brings extensive experience in the Japanese market advising on financing matters including asset, project, structured, debt and real estate finance to his new firm. He worked for Clifford Chance for more than a decade before joining White & Case in 2016 and is ranked Band 1 for domestic asset finance in Japan by Chambers, which noted he is often sought out by major banks for advice on aircraft financings and leasings. 

Collins said: “We are excited to be opening in Tokyo. WFW’s reputation for excellence for transport sector asset finance makes it the obvious platform from which our team can expand and enhance the service we offer our Asia Pacific clients. I am delighted to be bringing the team back together as the new WFW Tokyo office and look forward to making WFW the ‘go-to’ law firm for aviation and maritime finance in Japan.”

The new office will be the UK firm’s sixth in Asia and follows it adding partners Eugene Chang and Philip Kim from K&L Gates and Herbert Smith Freehills respectively for the February launch of its Seoul office, which focuses on maritime, aviation, energy and disputes work. 

Going the other way, leading Japanese law firm Anderson Mori & Tomotsune announced last September that it had opened an office in London led by corporate partner Atsutoshi Maeda as it sought to broaden its ability to offer Japanese law advice to clients in the UK and Europe.

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]