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British law firm Linklaters established the first fully merged Japanese-Anglo law firm Friday, the same day new laws took effect allowing registered foreign lawyers and their local counterparts — bengoshi — to work under the same roof. Linklaters has merged its Japanese office with a group of lawyers from Mitsui, Yasuda, Wani & Maeda as the government amended rules that previously stated foreign firms could only set up joint ventures. The old rules meant clients had to work with two sets of lawyers — Japanese and non-Japanese — on crossborder matters. About 21,000 attorneys maintain a broad monopoly on Japanese law-related matters for a population of 130 million. The new laws are expected to enhance client convenience and expose Japanese lawyers to more competition in international legal affairs. “Most of our clients are working across borders,” said Anthony Cann, Linklaters global senior partner. “Briefing one firm rather than separate domestic and international firms saves them time and resources and also ensures clients receive advice that is coordinated and consistent.” As many as half of the lawyers at Mitsui, Yasuda, Wani & Maeda moved to join with Linklaters attorneys to set up a firm of more than 60 lawyers, said Hideo Norikoshi, a Linklaters partner. “Not all were willing,” he added. “The bengoshi who have joined Linklaters are Japanese lawyers committed to playing an active role in the international community,” said Akihiro Wani, joint managing partner of the office. “We believe this development will benefit both the legal profession in Japan and the wider business community.” Norikoshi would not quantify the amount of business the merged company expects to do in the first year, but is confident of success. “We have already received instructions from clients who had heard about the full merger.” Linklaters is one of world’s leading M&A law firms, placing fourth in global rankings for 2004, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Mitsui, Yasuda, Wani & Maeda is known for its M&A, financing and corporate restructuring expertise. Mori Hamada & Matsumoto, a big player in Japan’s corporate law sector, announced in late February a merger with intellectual property-focused Max Law Offices to create the largest law office in Japan with more than 200 lawyers. That merger is set for July and comes in the face of amendments to Japan’s Trust Business Law that also came into effect Friday allowing firms other than banks to engage in intellectual property trusts. There are legal service business opportunities as venture firms look to establish trusts based on IP such as copyright, content and software. Japan has arguably the stiffest national bar exam in the world, with a pass rate of between 2 percent and 3 percent. It produces no more than 500 new lawyers each year, keeping a lid on the number of Japanese lawyers. Copyright �2005 TDD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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