CORRECTION: 4/23/2012 12.37 a.m. An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of lawyers in Herbert Smith’s Tokyo office. We regret the error.

Vinson & Elkins has hired a partner for its Tokyo office.

James Watson joins from Herbert Smith, where he was joint head of energy and infrastructure in Japan. He has been at Herbert Smith since 1996, and became a partner in 2001. He transferred from London to Tokyo in 2007.

Watson’s experience includes advising on oil and gas, liquefied natural gas, and renewable energy matters, as well as infrastructure projects. While he was at Herbert Smith, the firm was international counsel to Japan’s Mitsubishi Corp. for the Donggi-Senora project, a $2.8 billion LNG project in Indonesia last year.

At Vinson & Elkins, Watson will advise international clients in Japan, as well as Japanese clients with business overseas. In a statement, the firm’s managing partner, Scott Wulfe, said the hire would help the firm service an expected surge in Japanese deals in the energy sector, particularly LNG.

Japan, which has few natural resources, imports around 84 percent of its energy resources, according to the World Nuclear Association. The country is also aiming to reduce its dependency on domestic nuclear power following last year’s tsunami and nuclear accident in Fukushima.

Watson will be the second partner and the fifth lawyer in Vinson & Elkins’ Tokyo office, which the firm opened in 2004. Herbert Smith has around 40 lawyers in the Japanese capital, where it has had an office since 2000.

Email: blewis@alm.com