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Japanese law firms hope to expand

Posted by: Laurence Simons 09/07/13

The health of the legal market in Asia and the number of opportunities for lawyers in the area has been emphasised by the news that Japanese law firms are seeking the chance to expand their business across the continent.

Corporate clients in the region can often find the presence of a Japanese organisation to work with quite reassuring, according to the Japan Times.

Lawyer Michiko Kanai at Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners said: "If lawyers step in and scrutinise local laws, they can offer advice so that future risks can be averted."

With China and other countries in Asia enjoying a degree of economic growth considerably more impressive than what has been seen in the West over the last few years, legal firms from across the globe have been scrabbling for a foothold in the region.

However, Japan's historic relationship with China (admittedly, not always a particularly sunny one) means its law firms are well-placed to take advantage of growth opportunities in the country, as does its relative geographical proximity.

Japanese organisations have been moving into China since the 1990s, taking advantage of corporate demand, and making similar moves into south-east Asia since the late 2000s.

In Singapore, five major firms have opened offices or are planning to do so in the business year ending next March, while Thailand and Vietnam also have Japanese legal outposts servicing local and international businesses.

Ms Kanai pointed out that the legal moves simply mirror the glut of small to medium-sized enterprises establishing bases in Asia.

"Larger companies can turn to their own legal affairs departments when dealing with problems, but smaller ones don't have such an option," she declared.

However, Japanese firms remain relatively far behind compared to their European and American counterparts, who have long seen the region as a strong area for growth and expansion.

With this in mind, the central government of Japan has established a consultative council on ways to back firms' cross-border efforts and encourage them to establish an overseas presence to rival the likes of Linklaters and Clifford Chance.