Japanese firm Nishimura & Asahi has applied to Vietnam’s Ministry of Justice to open an office in Hanoi.

If it is approved, the Hanoi practice will become the firm’s third overseas office. Nishimura & Asahi opened offices last year in Beijing and Ho Chi Minh City in June and October, respectively.

Nishimura & Asahi is one of Japan’s so-called Big Four law firms.

Tokyo partner Masakazu Iwakura says the firm’s Japanese clients are showing increased interest in investing in Vietnam via joint ventures, direct investments and licensing. He identifies financial institutions and manufacturing as key industries.

“Japanese clients previously had to rely on U.S., U.K. and local counsel for legal advice,” says Iwakura. “To them, it was inefficient and so we see a need for us to build a presence in Vietnam so that we can advise them directly.”

Ho Chi Minh City office head Hikaru Oguchi will take charge of the Hanoi practice. She will travel between the two Vietnamese offices and will work with a small team of local and Japanese lawyers.

Asian practices have been looking for opportunities to extend their presence overseas in recent months, with Southeast Asia as a particular region of interest for Japanese firms. Nishimura & Asahi’s Big Four rival Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu entered an alliance with Allens Arthur Robinson in October, with a view to increasing its penetration in markets such as Vietnam, Thailand and Cambodia.

Other Asian law firms that have offices in Vietnam include Singaporean firms Drew & Napier and KhattarWong; Thai firm Tilleke & Gibbins; and Korean firm Yulchon Attorneys at Law.

The country also hosts international firms including Baker & McKenzie, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Mayer Brown JSM.

Email: jseah@alm.com