For anyone who is not Japanese, the nation is one of paradoxes that make it incredibly difficult to define, or encapsulate. Take the football World Cup in Russia as an example. Just one team cleaned up its mess afterwards and left its locker room spotless, along with a “thank you” note (in Russian!). No prizes for guessing it was the Blue Samurai. This almost fanatically polite society, you may guess, also has some fairly outdated traditions to which it clings stoically. C-suite women lawyers are unheard of, and few if any women hold senior positions at firms.
Which brings us to in-house counsel. In Japan one needs only go back a decade or two to discover there were virtually none, apart from a few largely unregistered or professionally qualified lawyers performing menial contract tasks and passing the baton to large firms when any real legal work needed to be done.
Our cover story this month, Trapped in Tradition, examines Japan, the anachronism and the go-getter. For Japan is leading the way in areas like fintech, artificial intelligence and even space exploration mapping and contracting. Even as its population ages and its market shrinks, so outbound M&A is trending. But with an in-house counsel representative that is still maturing, and in many areas still not utilized, outbound companies may find the going tough in the globalized marketplace.
Apart from an analysis of legal developments on the ground in Japan, we spoke to law firms with vision and direction, corporate counsel network leaders, and women with success stories of smashing one of the thickest glass ceilings.
How the legal community moves forward now will be critical to the nation’s future success. If it succeeds in harnessing technology in all its evolutionary forms, opportunities will present themselves. And if it can break free from the shackles of tradition surrounding the roles of its in-house lawyers, and of talented female lawyers, the primer will exist for business to compete with the fast changing demands of international commerce.
Of course, tech is moving law forward everywhere, and it’s areas like cryptocurrencies that are causing the most angst. When and how to regulate is a problem for authorities, while where and in what to invest is the kind of advice that is gold for risk takers. Our Head to Head series this issue looks at cryptos and offers some sound comparisons in strategy from experts in the region and further afield.
When it comes to capital markets, China is moving forward in a big way with reforms. Capital returns looks at a number of major measures introduced this year and how they are designed to open domestic markets and attract quality investors to A-share markets. Greater transparency and stronger links between domestic and foreign markets are cornerstones to this strategy.
And finally, moving forward to the Philippines, to be one of that nation’s top lawyers, you have to be a “fast, expeditious lawyer who reacts promptly in providing solutions to issues and challenges faced within a constrained time environment”. Comments such as these, submitted to Asia Business Law Journal by the clients of Filipino lawyers, suggest that they not only look for lawyers with an extensive knowledge of the law, but also those who have exceptional communication skills, provide practical and strategic advice, and offer solutions tailored to a challenging business environment. In addition, most international clients seek out Filipino lawyers with international experience and mind set.
These are the qualities represented in this issue’s A-List, with our take on the top 100 lawyers in the Philippines. The list is based on extensive research, nominations received from in-house counsel around the world, and Philippine-focused partners at international law firms. It’s an interesting read and a great reference guide for in-house counsel.
Editor, Asia Business Law Journal
Editor-in-chief, Vantage Asia