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2017: Leading Firms

We list 87 law firms in this year’s edition of Who’s Who Legal: Japan; however, over 45 per cent of the listings in the guide are earned by lawyers from just six standout national firms, with the “Big Four” - Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu, Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, Nishimura & Asahi and Mori Hamada & Matsumoto - dominating the research. Here we profile the individual outfits leading the Japanese legal market.

Anderson Mori & Tomotsune

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Arbitration 1
Banking 1
Business Crime Defence & Investigations 2
Capital Markets 1
Competition 6
Construction & Real Estate 1
Corporate Immigration 1
Franchise 2
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
IP – Litigation 3
Labour & Employment 3
Litigation 3
M&A and Governance 8
Private Funds 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 2
TMT 2

Full-service domestic law firm ANDERSON MORI & TOMOTSUNE enjoys a position as one of the largest and foremost outfits in the country. The full range of the firm’s expertise is illustrated in our research this year as it achieves 37 listings across 16 practice areas. It stands out in particular for its exceptional corporate offering which encompasses M&A, governance, crisis management and corporate compliance. Antitrust is another area in which the firm excels, with practitioners well equipped to handle the gamut of related matters – from merger control to investigations and unfair trade practices.

Prominent names at the firm include Yusuke Nakano, who stands out as the pre-eminent competition lawyer in the country. Disputes specialist Yoshimasa Furuta achieves listings across our litigation and arbitration chapters while Hiroki Kodate is recognised for his corporate and antitrust expertise. 


Mori Hamada & Matsumoto 

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Banking 3
Capital Markets 4
Competition 6
Construction & Real Estate 3
M&A and Governance 5
Private Funds 2
TMT 2

Full-service law firm MORI HAMADA & MATSUMOTO boasts a strong presence in the Japanese marketplace and achieves 25 listings across seven practice areas in this year’s edition. Since the firm’s establishment by a merger between Mori Sogo and Hamada & Matsumoto in 2002, it has built on its excellent reputation for top-quality counsel and representation across a broad range of practice areas. Headquartered in Tokyo, the firm also has offices throughout South East Asia and offers an impressive depth of experience in corporate matters spanning the region. With five lawyers listed, the firm is among the leading players for M&A and governance matters. It also excels in the field of competition law, in which six of the firm’s outstanding practitioners are highlighted.

Standout individuals at the firm include Toru Ishiguro, a prominent name for banking matters; Kenji Ito for his prowess in competition law; Eriko Ozawa for her expertise in construction and real estate; and Yoshifumi Onodera, a leading name in the TMT arena. 


Morrison & Foerster 

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Capital Markets 2
Competition 2
Construction & Real Estate 4
Energy & Natural Resources 1
IP – Litigation 1
M&A and Governance 1
Project Finance 1
TMT 1

Global law firm MORRISON & FOERSTER boasts a prominent presence in the Japanese market, having been one of the first international outfits to establish itself in the country. Based in Tokyo, the firm’s national offering now comprises over 120 practitioners, including 50 Japanese lawyers. The team regularly represents leading businesses and financial entities in a range of corporate matters. The depth and breadth of its expertise is illustrated in the research this year as it achieves 13 listings across eight practice areas. The firm gains particular recognition for its top-tier work in the field of capital markets, competition and construction and real estate.

With four listings, the firm is at the forefront of the construction and real estate market, with Masahiro Shiga identified as a standout practitioner in the space. Other key names include Michael Graffagna who is highlighted for his exceptional work handling energy and natural resources and project finance matters. 


Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Arbitration 3
Banking 1
Business Crime Defence and Investigations 1
Capital Markets 6
Competition 4
Construction & Real Estate 4
Corporate Tax 4
Franchise 1
Insurance & Reinsurance 1
IP – Litigation 2
Life Sciences 3
Litigation 2
M&A and Governance 5
Product Liability Defence 2
Project Finance 1
Trade & Customs 1

Formed in 2000 through the merger of Nagashima & Ohno and Tsunematsu Yanase & Sekine, NAGASHIMA OHNO & TSUNEMATSU is a leading, independent full-service law firm and is firmly entrenched as one of the “Big Four” firms in the Japanese market. It was the first to break the 100-lawyer mark and now boasts offices in New York, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Shanghai and Hanoi, highlighting its prominence in the Asia-Pacific region. It is the foremost firm in our research this year, performing particularly well in our capital markets, competition, construction and real estate and M&A sections. In total, the firm achieves 41 listings across 16 chapters in this guide, highlighting the incredible strength and breadth of expertise on offer.

The firm’s lawyers are regularly called upon to handle some of the most significant matters in the Japanese market. In 2016, for example, Rintaro Hirano led the team involved in the Osaka and New Kansai international airports privatisation in the largest ever project finance deal in Japan. Meanwhile, real estate partners advised the Nomura Estate Master Fund in its merger with Top REIT.

Top lawyers at the firm include highly regarded tax specialist Yuko Miyazaki and client-favourite Eriko Watanabe, who is recognised for his exceptional expertise in the competition space. 


Nishimura & Asahi

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Arbitration 2
Banking 3
Capital Markets 2
Competition 6
Construction & Real Estate 2
Government Contracts 1
IP – Litigation 2
Litigation 2
M&A and Governance 6
Private Client 1
Private Funds 2
Product Liability Defence 1
Project Finance 1
Restructuring & Insolvency 2
Trade & Customs 1
Transport 3

As Japan’s largest law firm by number of employees, it is no surprise that NISHIMURA & ASAHI continues to be a pre-eminent presence within the market. This is reflected by its performance in our research this year, where it achieves 37 listings across 16 practice areas, demonstrating strong capabilities in numerous industry sectors and areas of law. It is particularly well regarded in M&A and governance, and competition; six lawyers are recommended in both chapters. It illustrates its expertise further by its retention of major national international clients including Japan Post Service, Daiwa Securities and Canon. The firm’s presence, recently expanded, now spans 14 offices across Asia, with four in Japan: Tokyo, Nagoya, Osaka and Fukuoka.

The firm includes several outstanding practitioners including leading competition and anti-bribery lawyer Kozo Kawai, who boasts a superb practice and a strong market reputation. Yo Ota is a leading name in M&A and governance, while Hitomi Iwase stands out as one of the firm’s foremost IP litigators.


TMI Associates

Listings in WWL: Japan 2017
Capital Markets 1
Franchise 1
IP – Litigation 5
IP – Patent Attorneys (Benrishi) 2
Life Sciences 2
M&A and Governance 2
Restructuring & Insolvency 1
TMT 3

Full-service Japanese firm TMI ASSOCIATES stands out as a firm with a notable reputation for its IP, corporate law, finance and litigation expertise. The firm is home to a number of leading lawyers and patent attorneys, who pride themselves on their solutions-focused approach to the diverse needs of their clients. TMI remains a firm favourite among Japanese and international corporations, who value its ability to handle a vast array of complex mandates. The firm achieves a total of 17 listings across seven practice areas, illustrating the breadth of expertise it offers.

With five listings for IP litigation, the firm is among the strongest players in the space. Key practitioners in the field include Mitsuko "Mimi" Miyagawa, who stands out for her first-class trademarks practice, Satoru Nagasaka and Kumi Morimoto. Other prominent practitioners at the 

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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.

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