We founded southgate in January 2016 to offer our clients a new business model for law firms in Tokyo: a boutique law firm devoted to cross-border matters comprising Japanese and US lawyers who enjoyed successful careers at international firms. In adopting this business model, we seek to provide legal counsel consistent with international standards not only for large-cap cross-border M&A deals, but also for the small- and mid-cap cross-border M&A deals that are being overlooked by today’s legal market.

A commitment to providing accessible cross-border service

We are one of a very small number of Japanese law firms established by Japan-qualified and foreign-qualified attorneys. Unlike most Japanese law firms, we are a true partnership of equals between Japanese and foreign lawyers, which makes us equally attuned to the practices and preferences of our overseas and domestic clients. We chose this form of law firm because it is best suited to our objective of offering high-quality cross-border legal services accessible to a broad spectrum of clients.

The three of us who founded southgate have between us nearly 40 years of experience at international law firms in Japan and the US, guiding Japanese companies in their overseas business ventures and overseas companies in their Japanese business ventures. Accordingly, we understand – and apply – international best practices for cross-border matters to all our work. We handle not only “bet-the-company” matters, but also small- and mid-cap matters. Despite their modest size, these transactions may be of critical importance to clients and often demand sophisticated legal advice, but they may not warrant tremendous legal budgets. The fact that we do not have the extensive infrastructure of our larger peers allows us to offer top-level service at rates that meet our clients’ needs for small- and mid-cap matters.

We bring to every matter our collective commitment to and experience in cross-border matters, our sensitivity to and familiarity with Japanese and overseas business practices, and our knowledge of how to get deals done inside and outside of Japan. In doing so, we aim to provide clients with a level and accessibility of service not yet seen in Japan.

Strong Japanese law capabilities

We are, first and foremost, a Japanese firm, and our focus on cross-border matters does not dilute our commitment to maintaining market-leading Japanese law capabilities. We have extensive experience handling complex and cutting-edge matters in Japan in the areas of M&A, bankruptcy, antitrust, IP, and crisis management. A representative list of Japanese transactions we recently handled at our previous firms (either in a cross-border context or a purely domestic context) is available in this link.

Top-class Japanese law capabilities are essential for providing domestic and international clients the best legal service available. It is for this reason that we focus not just on cross-border matters, but on domestic matters too.

A versatile overseas network suited to clients’ needs

We are not constrained by a network or a formal alliance of law firms. The only factor we consider when selecting local counsel for outbound matters is the needs of our client for that matter.

Before founding southgate, we worked in international law firms with well over a thousand attorneys as associates and as partners. This experience has given us an intimate understanding of how these firms operate and of their different working styles and areas of expertise. We have done deals in over 70 jurisdictions in our previous firms, through which we have established a roster of reliable local counsel (consisting of both independent firms and offices of global networks) in numerous jurisdictions that we will put to use to provide Japanese clients with optimal solutions for their overseas matters.

We manage overseas transactions from Tokyo. When we represent clients in multijurisdictional outbound transactions that require the assistance of local counsel, we work with local counsel, but we manage all aspect of the deal process, from the presentation of due diligence reports to the drafting and negotiation of the deal documents. Managing deals out of Tokyo maximizes our responsiveness to client demands and minimizes delays to deals.

By introducing a business model not yet seen in the Japanese legal market, we seek to create a new template for law firms in which Japan-qualified and foreign-qualified attorneys can practice together as equals. We hope to see other law firms like ours develop in Japan so that attorneys have more options in choosing a career and, more importantly, so that international and Japanese clients have more options in choosing legal services. We will spare no effort in supporting our clients in their most challenging matters, and in the process, contributing – even if just a little – to making this new legal market that we dream of a reality.