While firms flock to
China’s booming legal
market, Tokyo feels more
and more like a backwater.
Does Japan still matter?
Talk to members of Tokyo’s international legal community these days, and you hear a common refrain: Life is elsewhere.
“We’re a backwater now,” says David Sneider, head of the
Tokyo office for Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. “It’s really
China that’s the story. In terms of actual, fee-paying, high-
quality work, firms are really focused on China now.”
Michael Mies, Tokyo managing partner for Skadden,
Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, agrees. “If you want excite-
ment in Asia, it’s going to be China or Hong Kong,” he says.
Indeed, according to Dealogic, Chinese companies participated in initial public offerings worth $73 billion last
year, compared to less than $15 billion for Japanese companies. The contrast became only starker this year. In the
first half of 2011, China saw $24 billion in IPOs; Japan, less
than $300 million. In mergers and acquisitions, the picture is similar. According to figures from Mergermarket,
China and Hong Kong saw cross-border M&A deals worth
a combined $119 billion in 2010, more than triple Japan’s
The 8. 9 magnitude
struck Japan on
March 11, 2011,
and the legal expat