The best-kept secret in Tokyo” – Legal 500 (2023)

We founded southgate in 2016 to create a firm that didn’t exist in Japan:

Click here for a brief history of the firm.

We were established by Japanese and US-qualified lawyers as a true partnership of equals. Japanese and international lawyers have an equal say in how the firm is managed and projects are run, thereby providing our clients with the best that international and Japanese firms have to offer. This equality also allows us to attract top international and Japanese lawyers.

We adopt best international practices. The firms’ founding members had spent their entire careers at international firms before establishing southgate. We understand best international practices for law firms and projects and we implement these practices in all our work.

We combine our international focus with a leading Japanese practice. We operate like an international firm, but without forgetting that 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 Japanese law matters, including the first ever stock-for-stock deal between a Japanese buyer and an overseas target under the Act on Facilitating Industrial Competitiveness and one of the first part-cash, part-share overseas acquisitions by a listed Japanese company.

We focus on what we do best: cross-border transactional work. We are not a full-service firm; we specialize in corporate, M&A, venture capital, joint ventures, and commercial/IP transactions. We will not stray from our core competencies to pursue work in areas in which we are not specialists.

We are independent. We are not constrained by a global network or membership in a law firm alliance. Through handling matters in some 80-odd jurisdictions, we have developed a deep bench of local counsel for deals of all sizes and varieties. The only factor we consider when selecting local counsel is the needs of our client.

We stress quality, not quantity. We do not seek to maximize hours to boost revenues. We work in small teams to enhance efficiency and speed and to avoid duplication and unnecessary billing. We do not have a culture of pulling all-nighters or bragging about high billable hours because chronically sleep-deprived attorneys perform poorly and eventually burn out. We seek to foster a sustainable work environment that will deliver optimal results to clients and professional fulfillment to our members.

We are accessible. 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. Despite their modest size, these matters are often of critical importance to clients and can demand the same sophistication of legal advice as billion-dollar deals, but do not justify the same legal fees. Our focus on accessibility allows us to work with a wide variety of clients, from listed companies to founders and startups.