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Bird & Bird to launch in Tokyo with Ashurst corporate hire as firm sets sights on €1bn revenue mark

Bird & Bird has announced it will open in Tokyo before the end of the year, with the new base set to be led by corporate partner Hiro Iwamura, who is joining from Ashurst.

The launch marks the first significant move for the firm since February’s unveiling of its new five-year strategy – which includes the ambitious goal of reaching €1bn in revenue within the next half-decade.

‘We’re kicking off our new five-year strategy as we mean to continue – purposeful, intentional growth in key markets where our clients are thriving’, CEO Christian Bartsch said in a statement. ‘Japan is a dynamic, tech-rich country, and as Japanese clients increasingly look to expand internationally, it’s right that we put down roots alongside them to help them achieve their international ambitions.’

He continued: ‘We see a really prosperous future in the region. Our offering of IP, tech transactions, and M&A, together with our geographical spread across Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific and willingness to mobilise truly global teams is unique in the market, and one which we are well placed to deliver.’

Iwamura has been at Ashurst for almost 15 years, joining from Herbert Smith in 2010, where he spent five years as an associate after starting his career at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw in New York in 2004.

His practice focuses on advising Japanese companies entering the UK and EU markets on issues including M&A and other corporate matters, while he also advises Japanese clients on a range of day-to-day legal issues from contract reviews and compliance advice to competition, dispute resolution, and employment matters.

He is qualified as a solicitor in England and Wales and as an attorney in the state of New York, and is a registered foreign lawyer in Japan and a member of the Tokyo Bar Association.

‘Hiro is a brilliant addition to our partnership and will help successfully steer our Tokyo office in the months ahead. We look forward to him joining us,’ Bartsch added.

Bird & Bird currently boasts 32 offices around the world, with five across the APAC region in Beijing, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Shenzhen and Sydney, as well as a presence in Sydney via its global association with Bird & Bird ATMD LLP.

In a statement, Bird & Bird said that it planned to recruit further more partners and associates in Tokyo, with the team on the ground set to ‘act as conduits between Japanese clients and the rest of the firm’s international network’, while also collaborating with the existing Tokyo office of the firm’s consulting arm, OXYGY.

After posting revenues of €573m last year, the five-year target of €1bn set out in its strategy plan would require it growing by 75% in five years. For comparison, its 2018-23 growth rate as recorded in last year’s Global 100 was 41% – a performance not out of line with peer firms (better than Pinsent Masons’ 29%, and a touch below Simmons & Simmons’ 44%) undoubtedly healthy, but some way off the required growth to hit the €1bn mark in five years.

Only seven firms in the 2023 Global 100 have seen five-year growth of more than 75% – King & Spalding (77%), Willkie Farr & Gallagher (79%), Holland & Knight (82%), Cooley (87%), McDermott Will & Emery (96%), and Kirkland & Ellis (106%).

In conversation with Legal Business, Bartsch acknowledged the scale of the challenge. ‘It’s really hard to get momentum in professional services firms’, he said. ‘But once you’ve got it, you can really drive growth.’

Bartsch also highlighted opportunities in process optimisation and service delivery. Ultimately, though, he pointed to a focus on the firm’s undeniable strengths in the ever and rapidly growing tech sector: ‘We want to be the leading international law firm that’s guiding organisations who will all be shaped by technology, innovation, and regulation.’