Labour and employment: Independent local firms in Japan

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune has broad expertise in the areas of labour and employment, including labour union issues, employment termination, sexual harassment and power harassment, mental illness issues, and executive matters. The firm is also known for experience in labour and employment-related litigation. Notable in the team are Kazutoshi Kakuyama, who specialises in labour and employment law, as well as general corporate matters, for domestic and international clients; and Hideki Thurgood Kanoh, who is notable for pensions work. They co-lead the practice with Yukiko Imazu, Nobuhito Sawasaki, Junichi Ueda, and Kensuke Otsuki. In a recent highlight, the group advised Luigi Lavazza on the labour and employment matters related to its acquisition of Mars Drinks Business.

Practice head(s):

Kazutoshi Kakuyama; Hideki Thurgood Kanoh; Yukiko Imazu; Nobuhito Sawasaki; Junichi Ueda; Kensuke Otsuki

Key clients

Luigi Lavazza S.p.A

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto

Mori Hamada & Matsumoto  handles a range of contentious and non-contentious employment mandates, primarily for domestic clients but it also has experience assisting international clients with Japanese law. Chisako Takaya specialises in labour and employment, notably litigation, cross-border transactions, M&A and general corporate matters. He co-leads the team with Taichi Arai, whose expertise covers Japanese labour disputes, as well as international labour matters, including dispute resolution assistance to foreign-affiliated firms in Japan; and Yoshikazu Abe, who has experience in employee dismissal, overtime allowance, work-environment harassment issues, personnel reduction and labour union issues.

Practice head(s):

Chisako Takaya; Taichi Arai; Yoshikazu Abe

Work highlights

  • Represent Japan Post Co., Ltd. one of Japan’s biggest employers in a series of litigation actions argued at the Supreme Court after receiving judgment by Tokyo High Court and Osaka High Court. The dispute hinges on an article of the Labour Contract Act which states that the differences of employment conditions of fixed-term employee shall not be unreasonable in comparison with those of employees without fixed-term employment.

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu is known for representing the management of foreign and domestic companies, across a range of industries, in employment and labour law disputes. The practice has particular experience advising international business entities and their Japanese affiliates in large-scale commercial litigation and in handling corporate law matters related to employment. Areas of expertise include employee contracts and work rules; employment-related regulatory compliance; contracts for executives and executive compensation; collective bargaining negotiations with labour unions; and protection of personal information. In addition, the practice advises clients on employment and labour law issues arising from the restructuring of corporate entities and M&A. Hisaya Kimura leads a team that includes Norimitsu Arai, who is notable for union-related work, litigation, and transactional employment matters.

Practice head(s):

Hisaya Kimura

Other key lawyers:

Norimitsu Arai

Nishimura & Asahi

Specialising in corporate law and finance, Nishimura & Asahi is experienced in advising enterprises on daily personnel and labour issues, as well as the structuring of compliance systems. The firm also has expertise in employment and labour-related litigation, particularly cases with international and cross-border elements. The practice is active in the increasingly prominent cross-over between technologies and labour law; Yuri Sugano handles labour issues relating to HR-tech and AI. She co-leads the team and specialises in advice on the Japanese government’s “work-style reform” programme. Fellow co-head Jiro Abe has experience in a range of matters including restructuring, post-merger integration, union negotiations and labor disputes. Michihiro Mori left the firm in 2019 for Ai-Ei Law Office.

Practice head(s):

Yuri Sugano; Jiro Abe

Key clients

BlackRock Japan Co. Ltd.

Yomiuri Telecasting Corporation

Mercedes-Benz Japan Co., Ltd.

Tomy Company, Ltd.

Tsukada Global Holdings, Inc.

Tokyo Academy Group

Takeda Pharmaceutical Company Ltd.

AOKI Holdings, Inc.

TMI Associates

Cross-border specialists TMI Associates has experience in labour and employment litigation, representing Japanese and multinational corporations and institutions. The firm acts in the spectrum of labour and employment-related issues, including employee contracts, termination of employment, M&A-related matters, and investigations into harassment. Co-leading the practice are Mie Fujimoto, who focuses on advising foreign clients across a range of industries, and litigation specialist Motoi Fujii, who represents clients in employment lawsuits and labour tribunals. Also notable in the team is Rie Taiko, who was promoted to partner in 2019, and Seiji Kurihara, who advises multinational companies on various labour and employment matters.

Practice head(s):

Mie Fujimoto; Motoi Fujii

Other key lawyers:

Rie Taiko; Seiji Kurihara

Testimonials

‘The team are very knowledgeable in terms of not only the laws of Japan, but a great understanding of the culture’

‘Provide prompt information when needed and make themselves available in the shortest time frame possible’

‘They conduct their business in a very professional manner and always have the companies’ best interest when they provide information’

‘Tomoko Narita and Naomi Kawada provide exceptional service’

Atsumi & Sakai

Atsumi & Sakai is experienced in a range of employment agreements, directors’ and officers’ service contracts, procedures and work rules. The firm has particular expertise advising foreign corporations on the complexities involved in the termination of employment in Japan, including preparing termination schemes and settling disputes. Another areas of expertise for the practice is immigration matters, advising foreign nationals and their employers on visas, changes of status and residency applications. Kunihiro Sumida is active in contentious and non-contentious labour and employment, intellectual property, and corporate matters, particularly those with a cross-border element. He co-leads the team with Tatsuo Yamashima, who is known for disputes, collective bargaining and other corporate legal affairs.

Practice head(s):

Kunihiro Sumida; Tatsuo Yamashima

City-Yuwa Partners

City-Yuwa Partners specialises in acting on management side matters. The firm provides legal advice regarding labour and employment issues to domestic and international clients across litigation, mediation, labour tribunal, and collective bargaining. Noriko Higashizawa leads the practice and has experience representing global companies on a range of labour and employment matters, including dispute resolution issues. She also provides legal advice on general corporate matters and acts as local counsel for international clients.

Practice head(s):

Noriko Higashizawa

Iwata Godo

Iwata Godo acts primarily for Japanese listed companies, covering a range of employment issues, from complex court and labour tribunal litigation, to change management, restructuring and business protection. Landry Guesdon is a registered foreign attorney and specialises in M&A, business law and cross-border employment matters. He co-leads the team with Hiroki Fujiwara and Daisuke Tokumaru, who were both promoted to partner in 2019.

Practice head(s):

Hiroki Fujiwara; Daisuke Tokumaru; Landry Guesdon

Work highlights

  • Defended the employer against a claim for damages for alleged phycological loss caused by its order to relocate the employee.
  • Advised a Mega-bank on the lawfulness of its order against its employee to stay on garden leave for a longer period.
  • Represented a famous music industry company in its collective bargaining regarding the relocation of employees.
  • Advised a major bank on its disciplinary dismissal of an employee who was involved in theft and on its decision to cut severance pay.
  • Advised a major general insurance company regarding its disciplinary action against an employee who had leaked customer information, while representing it before the Financial Services Agency in relation to regulatory reporting.

Ushijima & Partners

Litigation specialist Ushijima & Partners has expertise in cross-cultural and cross-border issues, particularly in relation to explaining and advising foreign businesses on Japanese law issues. The firm is also experienced in labour practice matters, terminations and dismissals. Rikisuke Yamanaka leads the practice and provides employment advice to Japanese and foreign clients, notably in disputes resolution matters.

Practice head(s):

Rikisuke Yamanaka

Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo

Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo focuses on providing Japanese employment law advice to global companies with operations in Japan, particularly investment banks. The firm has experience representing clients in Japanese courts in relation to a range of employment disputes, including termination cases, as well as providing expertise in the performance management, overtime issues, and workplace harassment. Practice head Akiko Yamakawa specialises in acting in court proceedings on employment and labour issues.

Practice head(s):

Akiko Yamakawa

Testimonials

‘Deep experience on investigation and labor law issues’

‘Akiko Yamakawa is good at explaining legal matters to non-lawyers’

‘All lawyers are very skilled, experienced professionals’

‘They can provide high-quality advice’

‘High quality services and advice with very reasonable fee rate’

‘Kazuki Okada is absolutely one of the best labor lawyers in Japan with notable knowledge, experience and track record’

Akiko Yamakawa and Masahiko Kinoshita always give appropriate advice’