Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan
Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo, Japan (Courtesy photo)

A four-lawyer team has left Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer’s in Tokyo to form a new Japanese boutique, which will become part of the Magic Circle firm’s global relationship firms network.

Tokyo partners Akiko Yamakawa and Kazuki Okada founded Tokyo-based Vanguard Lawyers Tokyo with former consultant Naoki Kinami, who will be a partner at the new firm, and associate Masahiko Kinoshita.

Litigation partner Okada, who focuses on cross-border litigation, employment and intellectual property disputes, and international arbitration, previously led Freshfields’ disputes practice in the Japanese capital.

Yamakawa, a disputes specialist with a particular focus on employment, joined Freshfields in 2007 and made partner in 2015, while Kinami, who in 2002 became the first Japanese lawyer to lead Freshfields’ Tokyo office, advises banks, financial institutions and insurers on Japanese regulatory matters.

Vanguard will still work with Freshfields as part of its nonexclusive StrongerTogether network, which comprises more than 300 firms around the world.

The departures leave Freshfields with three partners in Tokyo, including Kaori Yamada, an antitrust specialist who was made partner in May, and about 25 other lawyers. M&A partner Edward Cole manages the office. The other resident partner is M&A lawyer Takeshi Nakao. Disputes partner Nicholas Lingard splits his time between Singapore and Tokyo.