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Negotiating crises of past and present

On 20 February, Russia announced war on Ukraine, plunging Europe into another war. While issues were simmering between the two post-Soviet states, a full-blown military invasion has come as a surprise.

Lock and load
Volume 6, Issue 4
Asia Business Law Journal

With travel slowly reopening after nearly two years of covid-induced lockdowns, the world was preparing for a spring of hope, but has been dealt a winter of despair. With Russia now expected to face sanctions worldwide, the fragile global economic recovery seems at risk.

However, there is still hope as the world opens up and businesses look to catch up on lost time. And there is no dearth of opportunities for those that dare.

In our Cover story, we chronicle the rise of Asian international firms – the ones that have dared to look beyond their comfort zones. Many were moving with their clients, expanding to serve them better.

“It was very simple – client needs,” says Daisuke Morimoto, head of international for Japanese law firm Nishimura & Asahi, explaining their need for international expansion.

However, these international outposts are becoming more than just extensions serving their home clients, but have now come into their own. As Morimoto points out, international customers also find the new offices convenient. US and European clients are asking his firm to handle Japanese legal matters.

The legal businesses are also going international through a range of formats, from direct ownership to affiliates to networks, an interesting mix of approaches and strategies, although only time will tell how they fare.

With Asian businesses and law firms going global, they are also waking up to the need to become more diverse and inclusive, and promote equity. In Outside the box, we find out how committed Asia’s legal sector is to drive such change.

General counsel in the West are now demanding greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) in exchange for legal work. In 2019, 170 companies including Getty Images, Etsy and Heineken USA published an open letter accusing law firms of a lack of diversity, particularly at the partnership level, which remains “largely male and largely white”.

Last year, 65 general counsel from the UK and European companies signed a statement of support to increase D&I across the legal sector. The number of signatories has since grown to more than 100.

The principal-agent problem – a conflict in priorities between a person or group and the representative authorised to act on their behalf – is a challenge that daunts many in politics, administration, business and management. The question is, can the problem be resolved if human agents were replaced with reliable and “neutral” computer code, and if decision-making were “democratised”?

This question, which was previously theoretical in nature and considered the stuff of fiction alongside predictions of a cashless society and driverless motor cars, is now being answered in the affirmative through the emergence of decentralised autonomous organisations, or DAOs. In our Intelligence report, we explore the legal and regulatory challenges posed by the “algocracy”.

We are also excited to bring you the second edition of our Japan outbound investment guide, an annual supplement brought in association with the Japan In-House Lawyers Association (JILA). The guide presents local expertise from leading law firms in 10 different jurisdictions. It is a practical guide for Japanese in-house counsel seeking to make investments, resolve disputes or protect their intellectual property rights across markets. Do check our website for the Japanese translation of this guide. The 14 co-published articles written by leading regional experts offer unique insights into navigating the nuances of each jurisdiction.

This issue also has our inaugural A-List of offshore lawyers. After an extensive survey of leading in-house counsel and law firms, we compiled a list of the top 50 lawyers providing critical counsel on offshore matters.

We are also proud to present our first Thailand Law Firm Awards to you, which recognise the best legal advisory firms in this Southeast Asian country. We applaud them for their expertise across 20 practice areas.

Best wishes,
Mithun Varkey
Editor, Asia Business Law Journal
Managing Editor, Law.asia