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Japan > Corporate and M&A > International firms and joint ventures > Law firm and leading lawyer rankings


Index of tables

  1. Corporate and M&A: international firms and joint ventures
  2. Leading individuals: bengoshi (within international firms and joint ventures)
  3. Leading individuals: foreign lawyers (gaiben)
  4. Next generation lawyers: bengoshi (within international firms and joint ventures)
  5. Next generation lawyers: foreign lawyers (gaiben)

Leading individuals: bengoshi (within international firms and joint ventures)

  1. 1

Leading individuals: foreign lawyers (gaiben)

  1. 1

Next generation lawyers: bengoshi (within international firms and joint ventures)

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    • Tokutaka Ito - Allen & Overy Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo Horitsu Jimusho
    • Akira Kumaki - Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP

Next generation lawyers: foreign lawyers (gaiben)

  1. 1

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As ‘an undoubted leader in the market’ with ‘a level of quality and care that is rare to find’, Allen & Overy Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo Horitsu Jimusho couples ‘highly sophisticated, pragmatic and client-oriented advice’ with ‘an approach that perfectly balances professionalism and friendliness’ to position it as ‘a first-class firm at the top of its game’. Recent highlights for the three-partner team include advising Kirin on its exit from the Brazilian market with the $706m sale of its Brazilian units to Bavaria, a subsidiary of Heineken; assisting JERA with its $200m investment into ReNew Power, acquiring a 10% stake in the target; and acting for BTMU on its acquisition of a 20% stake in Security Bank, totalling PHP37bn. Simon Black and Nick Wall jointly lead the department; Black is ‘exceptional at understanding client needs’ and Wall’s ‘vast expertise is truly outstanding and allows him to approach any problem with confidence and creativity’. Clients also single out the ‘excellent’ Osamu Ito, counsel Tokutaka Ito, who is ‘highly responsive and always has the client’s best interests at heart’; and associate Jarrod Woodward, who is ‘a perfect blend of youthful energy, diligent case management and impeccable expertise’.

Baker McKenzie (Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise)’s ‘best-in-class’ practice is ‘always flexible and ready to adapt to client needs’ with ‘a real enthusiasm for client satisfaction and a level of expertise that is truly outstanding’. Akifusa Takada now leads the team after Hiroshi Kondo stepped down from the role. The department also contains the ‘brilliant and solution-oriented’ Jeremy White, whose recent mandates include advising Rakuten on its minority equity investment into Careem, acquiring a 50% stake for $500m; and acting for Nissha Printing on its $135m acquisition of Graphic Controls. Further highlights include Kondo and Yutaka Kimura assisting Hon Hai Precision Industry with its ¥389bn investment into Sharp Corporation, Kiyoshi Endo handling Yanmar Holdings’ acquisition of an 18% stake in International Tractors for $235m, and Kondo and Aiko Yamada acting for Hakuhodo on its acquisition of Integrated Communications Group. Hitachi, Mizuho Securities, Dai-ichi Life, Sumitomo and Toshiba are also clients. Jiro Toyokawa and Hideo Norikoshi are other recommended practitioners, as is ‘excellent’ associate Beelian Tay.

Herbert Smith Freehillsoperates with strikingly seamless coordination on cross-border deals’ and has ‘standout knowledge of the field’ with ‘an impressive responsiveness and superb communication skills’ making it ‘one of the highest performing firms in the market’. The ‘exceptional’ department is led by the ‘sharp, commercial and goal-oriented’ Graeme Preston (who ‘has a real client-first mentality and highly commercial business acumen, which give him a unique grasp on the business needs of Japanese clients’), and was recently bolstered following the move of regional Asia corporate practice head Lewis McDonald from the firm’s Seoul office. The group is noted for its TMT and energy sector strength with recent highlights including advising SoftBank on the development of multiple solar projects in India, acting for Mitsui on its acquisition of a 15% stake in the Moatize coal mine in Mozambique and a 50% stake in an infrastructure project in the Nacala Corridor, and assisting Teijin with its acquisition of a 39% stake in Healthy Grain. Alexis Papasolomontos, energy specialist Andrew Blacoe, senior associate James Hearne and Damien Roberts, who is ‘extremely easy to work with’, also attract praise.

The ‘exceptional professionalism’ of Morrison & Foerster LLP makes it ‘the absolute best for complex and large-scale M&A’. Team head and managing partner Ken Siegel is ‘a doyen of the market’ with ‘undeniable talent and prowess that simply cannot be matched’; he recently led advice to SoftBank on its £24bn acquisition of Arm Holdings, handled the $500m sale of Toshiba’s home appliances business to Midea Group, and assisted SoftBank with its investment into OneWeb and the subsequent merger of OneWeb and IntelSat. The team also contains Gary Smith, who ‘consistently provides strong advice’, Jeff Schrepfer, who is ‘a complete professional with unbelievable Japanese language capability’, and technology specialist Masato Hayakawa; all of whom recently acted for Renesas Electronics on its $3.2bn acquisition of Intersil. Stan Yukevich, who regularly advises clients in the technology sector, Randy Laxer, Ivan Smallwood and Noah Carr are also recommended; Carr made partner in 2016. James Robinson joined Herbert Smith Freehills’ New York office.

The ‘extremely helpfulKenneth Lebrun heads the ‘highly knowledgeable’ group at Shearman & Sterling, and recently led advice to Sompo Holdings on its $6.3bn takeover of Endurance Speciality Holdings. Other mandates included assisting Japan Nuclear Fuel with its acquisition of a 5% stake in New Areva Holding, acting on the $2bn merger of Daishi Bank and Hokuetsu Bank, and handling Integral’s $218m acquisition of Aderans. Merrill Lynch Japan Securities and Coca-Cola Bottlers Japan are also clients; Lebrun advised the latter on its establishment as a result of the integration of Coca-Cola West and Coca-Cola East Japan. Regional managing partner and head of the Tokyo office Masahisa Ikeda is highly regarded for his cross-border M&A expertise and knowledge of private equity transactions; he recently led advice regarding the business integration of JX Holdings and TonenGeneral through a share exchange, forming JXTG Holdings. Associate Gordon Palmquist is also a key name to note.

Simpson Thacher & Bartlett LLP is recognised for advising private equity houses, with KKR as a key client, which the team advised on its proposed acquisition of Hitachi Kokusai Electric, its ¥147bn tender offer for shares in Hitachi Koki, and its ¥54bn sale of part of its investment in Panasonic Healthcare Holdings to Mitsui & Co. Sumitomo Life and Goldman Sachs are also clients; the department advised the latter as part of a consortium on the consortium’s sale of its stake in Universal Studios Japan to Comcast NBCUniversal. David Sneider heads the department, which regularly handles US law matters, particularly cross-border M&A. Other key practitioners include Takahiro Saito, Alan Cannon, who is recommended for capital markets transactions and cross-border M&A, and Noritaka Kumamoto, who was promoted to counsel in 2017.

Nobuhisa Ishizuka and Mitsuhiro Kamiya jointly lead the practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP, which specialises in cross-border mandates; recent examples include advising Endurance Speciality Holdings on its $6.3bn acquisition by Sompo Holdings, acting for Jacobs Douwe Egberts and its subsidiary Koninklijke Douwer Egberts on the sale of Ajinomoto General Foods’ licenced trade marks to Ajinomoto Co., and advising JPMorgan Securities as financial adviser to Sumitomo on its acquisition of Fyffes. Other clients include Nikkei and SMBC; the group worked with the firm’s US offices to assist the latter with its $3.4bn acquisition of American Rail Leasing from Icahn Enterprises. Kenji Taneda joined the team in 2016 from Morrison & Foerster LLP; he led advice to gumi’s investment arm on the establishment of Nordic VR Startups, a joint venture with Nordisk Film. Counsel Akira Kumaki is also recommended. Nels Hansen joined White & Case LLP – White & Case Law Offices (Registered Association).

Clifford Chance Law Office has ‘an excellent level of service, which brings to the table an unbeatable mix of international and Japanese approaches that are detail-oriented, pragmatic and professional’. In a recent highlight, Andrew Whan, who splits his time between Tokyo and Hong Kong, advised Permira Advisers on its acquisition of John Masters Organics for ¥37bn. Further standout work includes acting for Trinseo on the sale of its 50% stake in Sumika Styron Polycarbonate to Sumitomo Chemical Company, and assisting JTB with its acquisition of Kuoni Travel Investments; the ‘exceptional’ Natsuko Sugihara led on both matters and was promoted to the partnership in 2017. Tatsuhiko Kamiyama regularly advises private equity houses and Japanese corporates investing overseas, and senior associate Masafumi Shikakura is recommended for antitrust issues.

Davis Polk & Wardwell LLP’s ‘highly professional’ practice is recognised for its cross-border M&A expertise for a client roster, which features Fortress Investment Group, Daikin Industries, Mitsubishi UFJ Morgan Stanley Securities and SMTB. In a recent highlight, the team worked with the firm’s New York office to advise TonenGeneral on its merger with JX Holdings, forming JXTG Holdings. The department also assisted Dai-ichi Life with its merger with Janus Capital Group and Henderson Group, acted for Comcast NBCUniversal on its acquisition of the remaining 49% stake in Universal Studios Japan, and handled D+M Group’s acquisition by Sound United. Jon Gray and counsel Mörk Murdock jointly head the group, and Eugene Gregor moved to the firm’s Menlo Park office.

The ‘simply outstanding’ department at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer provides a ‘smooth, efficient and seamless service’, which is ‘energetic and friendly’ and ‘makes for an exceptional client experience’. The ‘reliable and experienced’ Edward Cole and Takeshi Nakao, who is ‘vitally important to any deal he is involved in and has truly indispensable knowledge of the legal market’, jointly head the group, which also includes ‘brilliant’ counsel Lukas Kratochvil and ‘always accessible’ senior associate Marcus Wolter as key practitioners. Recent highlights include advising Ajinomoto on its acquisition of a stake in Promasidor, acting for Marubeni on its acquisition of a 60% stake in Orffa, and assisting MBG Holdings with its acquisition of a stake in Universal Studios Japan. Panasonic, Lenovo, Sojitz and Inpex are also clients. Junzaburo Kiuchi joined EY Law Co..

With ‘a team that is keen to make an impact and go beyond the call of duty to make sure the deal succeeds’, Hogan Lovells Horitsu Jimusho Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo is ‘always pragmatic and hands-on, providing extremely timely, clear and concise advice’. Key team members include Wataru Kamoto, whose ‘professional attitude, deep insight and practicality is outstanding’; Jacky Scanlan-Dyas, who ‘stands out as sharp and hardworking’ and is ‘a great asset to have involved in any deal’; and Lisa Yano, who leads the firm’s US M&A practice and ‘quickly gets to the heart of the matter and proposes practical solutions’. Highlights included acting for Exelon on its joint venture with Japan Atomic Power Company, and advising PPG Industries on the $545m sale of its fibreglass operations to Nippon Electric Glass. Former practice head Rika Beppu recently left for Squire Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo Horitsu Jimusho.

Linklaters’ outbound focused team is led by Hiroya Yamazaki and also includes office managing partner John Maxwell. The group is highly regarded for its cross-border advice on Japan to Europe deals, with recent examples including advising Mitsui & Co on its acquisition of Chemtrade Aglobis, handling Panasonic’s acquisition of OpenSynergy and assisting Sosei with its investment into MiNA Therapeutics. Maxwell also acted for Mitsui & Co on the sale of its stake in Galaxy NewSpring to Yunnan Water (Hong Kong), and Yamazaki led advice to Aioi Nissay Dowa Insurance on its investment with Toyota Financial Services into MaaS Global. Nissan Foods, Nippon Telegraph and Telephone and Meiji Yasuda Life are also clients.

Jointly led by Tong Yu and Kaye Naoko Yoshino, Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP’s department leverages its US connection to advise on substantial cross-border matters. Recent examples include assisting Virtu Financial with its minority investment into SBI Japannext, acting for Nichi-Iko Pharmaceutical during its acquisition of Sagent Pharmaceuticals, and advising Yokohama Rubber on its $1.2bn acquisition of Alliance Tire Group. Yu was also part of the team that advised HP on its $1bn acquisition of Samsung’s printer business, and handled Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation’s acquisition of SGL Carbon Fibers. Further clients include Citigroup, Oaktree Capital Management, MUFG and Sumitomo.

Sullivan & Cromwell LLP’s recent work includes advising Terumo Corporation on its acquisition of medical device assets and liabilities from Abbott Laboratories and St. Jude Medical, acting for Lazard as financial adviser to Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma in its agreement to acquire Tolero Pharmaceuticals, and assisting Sumitomo Metal Mining with its acquisition of a 13% stake in the Morenci copper mine in Arizona from Freeport-McMoRan. Practice head Keiji Hatano and Izumi Akai are key names to note in the group, which works closely with the firm’s New York office.

As ‘an incredibly strong player in the market’, White & Case LLP – White & Case Law Offices (Registered Association)receives a triple-A rating’ from clients, who praise its ‘deep industry knowledge, exceptional professionalism and outstanding pragmatism’ as key factors in its success, making it ‘a go-to firm for cross-border M&A’. Brian Strawn and Jun Usami jointly lead the department; Strawn is ‘polite and kind in his manner, enhancing his insights and perspective’ and Usami’s ‘experience in managing international M&A projects makes him stand out from the crowd’. Usami’s recent work includes advising Mizuho Financial Group as financial adviser to SoftBank on its £24bn acquisition of Arm Holdings, while Karl Pires assisted Osaka Gas with three US-based IPP transactions including its acquisition of a stake in CPV Shore Holdings and its $700m three-tranche debt financing of CPV Fairview. The Development Bank of Japan, IHI Corporation and Petrobras Brasileiro are also clients. Nels Hansen joined from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP in 2017.

With an established presence in the energy sector, the ‘responsive and insightful’ practice at Ashurst enhanced its advice to insurers following the recruitment of Tracy Whiriskey from Clifford Chance Law Office in 2016; she recently advised Chubb Limited on its acquisition of Chubb Corporation. Further highlights for the practice include assisting Mitsui & Co as part of a consortium in its bid to acquire Thessaloniki Port Authority in Greece, acting for Nexans on the dissolution of its joint venture with Fujikura and Furukawa Electric, and handling JBIC’s acquisition of a stake in Technotrends Autopark. Other key practitioners include Rupert Burrows and finance sector specialist Kensuke Inoue.

Lance Miller and Masahiko Ishida jointly head DLA Piper’s department, which advises on cross-border transactions for a client roster including Marubeni, Sumitomo and Intel. Ishida acted for Terumo on its acquisition of Bolton Medical and advised Qualcomm on the Japanese elements of its joint venture with TDK, while Miller led advice to Newell Rubbermaid on the sale of its Asia Pacific assets and shares to Stanley Black & Decker. Hajime Iwaki left to establish Law Office of Hajime Iwaki.

A fabulous one-stop firm’, Jones Day is ‘client-oriented and friendly’ and ‘makes excellent use of its wider global network to quickly and effectively accommodate clients’ needs and requests’. Scott Jones and Stephen DeCosse jointly lead the group; Jones is ‘an excellent navigator for Japanese clients and has in-depth knowledge of the M&A field’ and DeCosse ‘understands exactly what clients need and quickly provides the appropriate advice’. Clients also single out the ‘highly professional’ Yuichiro Mori and Dan Matsuda, who has ‘robust experience and excellent market knowledge’. The team is particularly prominent in the life sciences sector, with recent work including advising Sumitomo Dainippon Pharma on its acquisition of Tolero Pharmaceuticals. It also acted for TDK on its $1.3bn acquisition of InvenSense, and handled TonenGeneral’s merger with JX Holdings.

Following its establishment in 2015, King & Spalding’s Japan practice ‘has well and truly solidified its presence in the market’ thanks to ‘an excellent team of pragmatic, professional and reliable individuals’. Mark Davies leads the department, and ‘has a friendly and responsive manner’; his recent work includes advising MOL on its acquisition of a minority stake in Seajacks. John McClenahan is also highly regarded and led advice with Davies to the sponsors (including Modec, Mitsui & Co and Marubeni) of the Carioca FPSO Project, Tartaruga FPSO Project and the TEN FPSO Project. Rupert Lewi is also recommended.

Michael Yoshii heads up the team at Latham & Watkins Gaikokuho Joint Enterprise, which regularly advises on cross-border deals involving the US; recent examples include acting for Callaway Golf Company on its joint venture with TSI Groove & Sports to form Callaway Apparel, advising Sumitomo Electric Industries on its acquisition of Keystone Powdered Metal, and handling Cognizant Technology Solutions’ acquisition of Brilliant Service. The group also advised Nissan on its $2.3bn acquisition of a 34% stake in Mitsubishi Motors and assisted Marubeni with its acquisition of a 20% stake in South Luzon Thermal Energy Corporation. Alphatec Holdings, NVidia Corporation and the Carlyle Group are also clients. Further key practitioners include Hiroki Kobayashi, Joseph Bevash (who splits his time between Tokyo, Seoul, Singapore and Hong Kong) and senior associate Nozomi Oda.

Norton Rose Fulbright focuses on cross-border deals with particular strength in US-focused work, thanks to the experience of practice head Eiji Kobayashi. Kobayashi regularly advises on outbound deals for a roster of Japanese clients including Sumitomo, Nissan, Central Japan Railway Company and Kyocera. AMD, Basell International Holdings, Bayer Holding and SunPower are also clients of the firm. Alongside its M&A expertise, the group also advises on investigations and compliance issues. Chris Viner is recommended, and splits his time between Tokyo and London.

With ‘one of the leading technology practices in the market’, Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP counts 96 Problems, Ascent Robotics and Fronteo as noteworthy clients. The team also advised Hitachi Chemical on its acquisition of HT Beteiligungs, and acted for Morinaga Milk Industry on its joint venture with ICI Pakistan and Unibrands. The group is also recognised for its energy and infrastructure work; it recently acted for Invenergy Japan on its partnership with SB Energy Group, which will enable the development of solar projects in both Fukushima Prefecture and Nagano Prefecture. Mark Weeks and Edward Johnson jointly head the department, and Hiroki Sugita and Yumiko Ohta were both promoted to the partnership in 2017.

Paul Hastings LLP is well regarded for its expertise in the TMT sector, and has particular expertise in payment systems M&A. In a recent highlight, the group advised Citi Cards and Sumitomo Mitsui Trust on Citi’s divestiture of its global card program business in Japan, and assisted JCB International with its arrangement with multiple Indian and Pakistani commercial banks to introduce debit cards. Toshi Arai heads up the department and also leads the firm’s active Japan-China practice. Matthew Berger, who splits his time between Tokyo and Palo Alto, and of counsel Timothy Mackey are other names to note.

Tsuyoshi Imai leads the practice at Ropes & Gray LLP, which handles private equity transactions including IPOs and LBOs. The team recently advised key client Bain Capital on the IPO of Macromill on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and the $340m secondary offering of shares in Skylark via accelerated bookbuild. Japan Wind Development, Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and MACOM Technology Solutions are also clients. Hiroyuki Hagiwara left for Paul Hastings LLP.

At Simmons & Simmons, department head Richard Kramer specialises in infrastructure projects, particularly in the transport and energy sectors. In other work, he recently acted for Perform Group on its acquisition of the rights to broadcast the league tournaments for Japan’s top soccer divisions, and advised Sumitomo Rubber Industries on its acquisition of Sports Direct’s trade mark rights to the Dunlop brand and its related sporting goods and licensing businesses. The team also assisted Sumitomo Rubber Industries with its acquisition of Micheldever. Mitsubishi UFJ Trust and Banking, Wood Mackenzie, Capcom and Perform Group are other clients.

The ‘pragmatic and well-organised team’ at Squire Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo Horitsu Jimusho is led by Ken Kurosu and was recently bolstered following the recruitment of life sciences transactional expert and litigator Haig Oghigian from K&L Gates, Rika Beppu from Hogan Lovells Horitsu Jimusho Gaikokuho Kyodo Jigyo and cybersecurity specialist Scott Warren, who joined from an in-house position. Other key practitioners include the ‘fair and trustworthyStephen Chelberg, who leads the firm’s global life sciences practice and ‘consistently finds the best possible solutions’, Steven Doi, Jun Mamiya and Kazuya Yamamoto. The practice is noted for its cross-border M&A strength.

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