Japan’s top law firms are continuing an Asia expansion drive in an effort to assist Japanese companies in their expansion drive in the region – as well as to capture market share from high growth economies in China and the ASEAN region. In January, The Global Legal Post reported that “Japanese  law firm Mori Hamada & Matsumoto is to launch an office  Myanmar.”  “Nishimura & Asahi set up in Yangoon last year”, the Post also reported.

And as The Lawyer reported ” [Mori Hamada & Matsumoto] said the move came in response to the rapid expansion of Japanese companies in Myanmar.”  “Yangon will be the firm’s fourth office outside Japan after Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and a Bangkok desk, which is stationed in the offices of Thai firm Chandler & Thong-ek.”  And as Myanmar Business Today reported:  “Mori Hamada is also primed for domestic expansion, and is scheduled to open an office in Osaka – its third office in Japan – on April 1.”

Japanese corporate sector expansion driving law firm regional expansion

As the Japan Times reported last year “Japanese law firms are scrambling to open offices throughout Asia as they chase corporate clients exploring opportunities in the region.”  The reported continued: ” Oh-Ebashi LPC & Partners opened an office in Shanghai in 1995, making it an early adopter of internationalization among Japanese legal firms, which generally avoid venturing abroad.”

Importantly, “The presence of a (Japanese) law firm is reassuring as we can seek advice at any time,” a [Japanese corporate sector official told the Japan Times], referring to the hazards of doing business abroad.”

Will Japanese firms join European and American firms in competition for market share in the Asia-Pacific region?

“Despite their expanding footprint in Asia, Japanese law firms are far behind their U.S. and European counterparts.” as The Japan Times reports.  Since 2008, however, Japanese law firms have opened in China, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar.  There appears to be a possibility that, should Japanese corporations continue to expand regionally, Japanese law firms could gain ground from their European and American counterparts in other countries as well, including South Korea.  Time will tell as to what will happen.  However what appears likely — with liberalized legal markets and high growth economies attracting more foreign law firms from throughout the world, legal sector competition will likely become more robust.

Posted by John Grimley

John Grimley edits and publishes Asia Law Portal and is the author of A Comprehensive Guide to the Asia-Pacific Legal Markets. He specializes in providing writing, editing, research and strategy services to the corporate and professional services sectors. Between 2002 and 2008, he established and directed the European representative business development office of US AmLaw 100 law and public policy firm Patton Boggs LLP. At the inception of his career, he served as a writer to the President of the United States in the White House. A licensed American lawyer, he holds a Juris Doctor from the University of San Diego School of Law.

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