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Editorial

Overview

Japanese companies continue to look outwards for business ‚Äď with outbound M&A still dominating the majority of work for both domestic and international firms ‚Äď driven by a shrinking and aging population and a slowing economy. The nation and its legal landscape has been further impacted by the negative interest rates currently imposed on Japanese banks (an attempt to encourage spending and weaken the yen) although political and economic volatility overseas has allowed for a certain level of resilience in the market. As a result, there has been a slight increase in inbound activity, although this still significantly trails the outbound trend.

The LNG market remains prominent in the region despite the country’s historically high demand for LNG falling due to the global oversupply. The renewables sector also continues to grow with Japan-based solar projects becoming increasingly prominent alongside wind power and biomass work. The nuclear sector remains dormant following the 2011 Fukushima disaster, although plans to restart the country’s reactors have drawn significant attention.

Technology is a key area of focus of Japanese companies, with innovative developments in AI, the Internet of Things and robotics becoming increasingly prevalent. Changes to the Act on the Protection of Personal Information coupled with the potential impact of the introduction of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe continue to keep IP and TMT practices busy.

The domestic legal market remains relatively closed with the pervasive division between international and domestic firms being driven by the language barrier and cultural differences. The ‚ÄėBig Four‚Äô domestic firms are Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu and Nishimura & Asahi with TMI Associates continuing to close the gap on the leading pack thanks to substantial expansion and growth throughout 2017.

International firms also remain largely unchanged with the traditionally dominant firms continuing to be key players in the market. Several employ a different business model utilising the strength of bengoshi teams. These include Baker McKenzie (Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise), Hogan Lovells Horitsu Jimusho Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo and White & Case LLP ‚Äď White & Case Law Offices (Registered Association).

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