Blake Dawson will become the first Australian firm in Japan when it opens an office in Tokyo early next year.
The office will be headed by Melbourne-based Natsuko Ogawa, who has been promoted to Asia international partner. Ogawa will be joined by three other lawyers who are currently on secondments to clients in Japan.
The firm is focusing its Japan strategy on servicing energy & resources, corporate and infrastructure deals. “Japanese companies are becoming more comfortable operating overseas, which means if we want to have close connections with clients, we need to be where they are,” said North Asia group head Ian Williams (pictured).
Williams added that while the plan to open in Japan had been in the works for five years, the firm was only recently prompted to launch as more Japanese clients increase their investments in Australia and Indonesia. “India, China and Japan are competing to secure energy supply, and Australia and Indonesia are key markets for energy and resources,” he said.
Williams estimates that 50% of work in its Jakarta office is conducted for Japanese and Korean clients. The firm will also advise investment firms and consumer product companies. “Japanese consumer product companies are increasing their investments very heavily. They have good cash flow and are very profitable but there aren’t many opportunities for either consolidation or expansion [locally] so when they look for opportunities, Australia …meets their investment criteria very well.”
A longer-term focus for the office will be on infrastructure deals. This is significant as one of the principle agendas for the Australia Japan Business Co-Operation Committee (of which Blakes partner Bob Seidler is a member) is to push for PPP deals in an upcoming meeting in Japan.
Williams said that a JV with a local firm is not part of his firm’s goal. “We have excellent relationships with the major Japanese firms and we think that Australian clients would want the very best Japanese legal advice and that should be left to the leading Japanese firms,” he said.
The move comes as more Australasian law firms have pushed forward their international strategies recently – Deacons Australia secured its merger with Norton Rose mid-year, and New Zealand firm Kensington Swan will launch in Abu Dhabi next year.