Success in the city

How law firm Atsumi & Sakai hope to empower the next generation of foreign businesses looking to grow in Japan

Law firm Atsumi & Sakai is ideally placed to help companies navigate the opportunities provided by Tokyo’s transformation into a global financial city. We spoke to some of the partners to find out what gives them the edge.

An outstanding track record

Atsumi & Sakai is well known overseas for providing advice on finance and FinTech in English. It’s a record of which the partners are proud. “We are highly ranked in finance, fintech and technology by objective organizations that rank law firms such as Chambers and Legal 500,” says Naoki Kanehisa, partner and head of the London office. “We were one of 25 firms in the Asia Pacific region to feature in the 2019 Financial Times Asia Pacific Innovative Lawyers ranking.”

Global connections

Atsumi & Sakai’s main business has changed with the times since it was founded in 1994, but one consistent pillar of strength has been the field of international finance. “We have taken on many inbound cases in particular,” says partner Eiichiro Hata. “Our specific work has included supporting overseas asset management and FinTech clients starting to do business in Japan.”

Hitting the ground running

For those companies entering the market from abroad, partner Sachiko Sugawara leads Japan Market Entry Support (JMES) within the firm. She and the JMES team provide one-stop support for everything, from setting up a company, to visa-related consultations, and day-to-day support.

“There are no borders when providing FinTech related services”

A diverse culture

“We were the first independent law firm in Japan to start joint ventures overseas,” says partner Yuri Suzuki. “Since then, we have admitted attorneys from USA, England and Wales, Germany, Ireland, China, Australia, India, and more recently, Taiwan, and Vietnam, giving us strength in our diversity.” In addition, Atsumi & Sakai’s attorneys are given the opportunity to work abroad. “Being able to work with overseas clients while possessing an international way of thinking is one of our firm’s significant traits,” adds Yuri. “There are no borders when providing FinTech related services, even when serving domestic clients.”

An eye to the future

So what do the experts at Atsumi & Sakai think could help Tokyo to realize its ambitions? “The most important thing, in terms of the legal aspect, would be enabling financial corporations to complete the process of obtaining a license in English, and also making the process faster and simpler,” says Eiichiro Hata. “Currently, it takes a long time to process, and you can only do it in Japanese, so this acts as a bottleneck for overseas companies.” Other changes include making it easier for skilled foreign workers to come to work in Tokyo and providing finance companies with economic benefits to doing business in Japan. “The key to achieving this is whether or not we’ll be able to get politicians to change these issues with our regulatory structure and tax system,” says Eiichiro. One thing’s for sure, though – however the future unfolds, Atsumi & Sakai will continue to use their expertise to guide their clients towards success in the city.

From left; Ryuichi Nozaki - Partner, Naoki Kanehisa - Partner ⁄ Head of London Office, Yuri Suzuki - Partner, Sachiko Sugawara - Partner, Eiichiro Hata - Partner

From left; Ryuichi Nozaki - Partner, Naoki Kanehisa - Partner ⁄ Head of London Office, Yuri Suzuki - Partner, Sachiko Sugawara - Partner, Eiichiro Hata - Partner

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