In a country that has often boasted some of the most cutting edge technology, product liability has always been a dynamic area for Japanese lawyers. With Japan’s famously litigation-averse culture, the recent number of product liability litigation cases compared to similar economies has been low. However, since the amendments to the Consumer Product Safety Law almost a decade ago, Japan’s increasing product regulation has provided much for the country’s legal community to consider. Four names stand out as the top practitioners in this sphere.
Long considered a difficult jurisdiction for private funds, Japan now looks to be opening up both domestically and internationally. Domestically, the country’s risk-averse culture seems to be warming towards the international private equity market, as Japan’s huge $1.2 trillion public pension fund looks to invest in private equity as a way to boost its profit margins. For international parties, the much-discussed Article 63 Exemption will now allow offshore managers seeking Japanese investors to circumvent stringent restrictions on foreign investors. This should make the country a more appetising jurisdiction for investment. Seven lawyers have been chosen as the key players in the market.
Project finance is one of the most active sectors for law firms in Japan. In early 2016 the country witnessed its largest ever project finance deal – involving the construction of two new airports in Osaka – arranged by SMBC and Mizuho Bank and worth US$1.68 billion. Japanese investors have also been looking further afield, and project finance commitments in Africa have risen by 576 per cent in the last five years alone. In this sector, 16 lawyers stand out.
The market has continued to see significant activity in the M&A space in Japan throughout 2016. Last year saw a number of Japanese companies spend big on acquisitions, with outbound transactions exceeding $82 billion for the first time ever. Despite market uncertainty and continued stagnation in Japan, the robust and buoyant M&A market seems to have continued into the first part of the year, and Japanese lawyers have reported no let-up in activity. A number of Japanese companies are still looking to acquire foreign companies – Asahi has made an offer for three Anheuser-Busch InBev beer brands including Peroni, Grolsch and Meantime – in order to grow outside of the shrinking Japanese market. Twenty-nine corporate specialists are selected in this chapter.
Recent advancements in medical technology and regenerative medicine are raising new challenges for Japan’s legal system. While the country’s pharmaceutical sector is almost completely dominated by domestic firms, the market is also the second largest in the world, with $115 billion of estimated sales in 2015. Coupled with an ageing population, the outlook for the sector’s growth continues to be bright, and the market is buoyant. Furthermore, with the Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (PMDA) struggling to keep up with the pace of technological advancements, Japan proves itself an interesting and diverse jurisdiction for lawyers currently practicing. Thirteen lawyers stand out as the very best in the field working in Japan today.
There have been several recent updates to labour and employment law in Japan – including the law to promote women in the workplace, which came into force as of 1 April 2016 and aims to counteract a decreasing workforce in the country by encouraging female participation in business. The Working Youth Welfare Act, meanwhile, aims to address the widespread practice of hiring large numbers of young employees and then forcing them to work excessive amounts of overtime, mostly without overtime pay. In this developing sector, six practitioners stand out for their ability to navigate the many laws, practices and amendments.
Japan is under increasing pressure to accept more immigrants as its workforce shrinks. Government data released in November 2015 showed the number of workers in Japan is projected to fall by 7.9 million to 55.61 million in 2030. Despite this, prime minister Shinzo Abe ruled out any significant changes to Japan’s approach to immigration at the UN general assembly in New York in September 2015. With calls for Japan to help ease the refugee crisis in Europe, the debate looks set to continue. Five Gyōsei shoshi (administrative lawyers) and one bengoshi stand out in the market for their exceptional level of service.
As Tokyo gears up to host the 2020 Summer Olympics for the second time in its history, lawyers are reporting that the related infrastructure projects and contract negotiation are still taking up the lion’s share of their time. EU trade negotiations are still yet to be concluded so the market remains dominated by Japanese contractors and will continue to be as the localised knowledge necessitated by this field is only open to the most experienced of lawyers.
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Nominees have been selected based upon comprehensive, independent survey work with both general counsel and private practice lawyers worldwide. Only specialists who have met independent international research criteria are listed.