U.K.-based Withers has hired a nine-lawyer team in Tokyo in an effort to provide a full-service investment funds practice.
Investment funds partners Koji Yamamoto, Yoshiyuki Omori and Junko Shiokawa arrive alongside real estate partners Gerald Fujii, Naoki Ueyama and Steven Wheeler. The group, which also includes two counsel and an associate, will add a fund formation, regulatory and real estate transaction capability to the office’s existing tax practice.
Withers launched a Tokyo office in 2015 as a tax adviser’s office, or Zeirishi Houjin. As part of its expansion, the office has now transitioned into a legal office with a mix of local and foreign qualified lawyers.
Yamamoto and Omori both join from accounting giant Deloitte’s Japanese legal arm DT Legal, where as partners they advised on investment fund and asset management-related matters. Yamamoto is a U.S. lawyer, while Omori is a qualified Japanese lawyer. Both worked in the Tokyo office of legacy Bingham McCutchen and subsequently Morgan, Lewis & Bockius before joining Deloitte in 2016. Prior to joining Bingham McCutchen in 2013, they practiced with White & Case in Tokyo. Counsel Rie Nitta is also make the move from Deloitte.
Shiokawa arrives from offshore firm Harneys and splits her time between Hong Kong and Tokyo. A fund formation and structuring specialist, she had practiced with Sullivan & Cromwell and the predecessor firm of Japan’s Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu. Shiokawa will work closely with funds associate Wataru Sasaki, also from Deloitte.
On the real estate side, Fujii was most recently a partner with White & Case in Tokyo, where he advised funds clients on cross-border real estate transactions in Japan. A U.S. lawyer, Fujii has been with White & Case since 1999.
Ueyama joins from local firm Masuda & Partners and was previously a real estate partner with Paul Hastings. He represents banks on real estate-related financing. Wheeler, who previously practiced at Morrison & Foerster and White & Case, most recently had his own practice. He focuses on property M&A and financing. Counsel Hiroyuki Sakazaki is the fourth lawyer in the real estate group.
Eric Roose, Withers’ Asia head of tax practice, has relocated to Tokyo from Singapore. Roose, who was based in Tokyo until 2012, came aboard from Morrison & Foerster in 2015 alongside tax partners Chizuko Tomita and Takeo Mizutani, both of whom helped launch the Tokyo office.
Roose said the Tokyo office of Withers, which in the U.S. is known as Withers Bergman (due to a 2002 merger with Connecticut-based Bergman, Horowitz & Reynolds), has built a successful practice advising funds clients on tax structuring matters.
“Clients have been asking for full legal services,” said Roose, noting that such outside counsel includes regulatory, licensing and transactional work for investment fund clients and work related to their real estate assets. ”Now we are a full-service office; all of our clients’ legal needs can be done in one platform.”
For now, Roose said that Withers’ Tokyo office will focus primarily on its investment funds practice—the office also handles private client work on the tax side—and is not eager to expand into other areas such as intellectual property or M&A work.
In August, Withers acquired JAG Shaw Baker, a U.K.-based firm focused on life sciences and technology work. The following month, Withers welcomed aboard Emma Lindsay, a former New York-based head of the international arbitration group at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner.