Taking on Tokyo

How Morrison & Foerster Became the Only International Law Firm With Full-Service Litigation Capabilities in Japan

It began 30 years ago with a single case. Today, Morrison & Foerster is the only global law firm with a dedicated full-service litigation team in Japan — a singular achievement that the Financial Times recognized in its inaugural Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Report.

MoFo’s foray into litigation in Japan began in the mid-1970s, when Fujitsu engaged MoFo as its counsel in connection with buying into Amdahl Corporation, a California-based company that specialized in IBM mainframe-compatible computer products. IBM sued Fujitsu for violating its IP rights, which gave birth to the firm’s Japanese litigation practice.

The firm’s success in the Fujitsu case — and more broadly in building a world-class litigation practice over the course of three decades — resulted from having a critical mass of lawyers on the ground who quickly earned the trust of their Japanese clients.

MoFo now has more than 25 full-time litigation lawyers in its Tokyo office, more than half of whom are fluent in Japanese. Beyond this impressive physical presence, MoFo’s Japanese litigation team deeply understands the needs of its Japanese clients and the intricacies of Japanese and U.S. law.

That’s one of the reasons why MoFo handles both outbound work (representing local Japanese companies in global disputes) and inbound work (representing non-Japanese companies in internal investigations in Japan and companies headquartered elsewhere in the world in domestic Japanese litigation matters).

When it comes to discovery, MoFo stands out as a true innovator. The firm managed the first large-scale e-discovery case in Japan, which required finding a vendor capable of searching Japanese databases. The lessons learned during this experience were brought in-house, and MoFo is now home to the only discovery team on the ground in Japan.

The unique service offerings, combined with the capability of successfully handling complex litigation matters, are among the reasons why MoFo’s Japanese litigation practice has earned the respect of the business and legal industry. In the first edition of the Asia-Pacific Innovative Lawyers Report, the Financial Times “highly commended” MoFo for having “a full-service litigation team in Tokyo with specialist support staff and top litigators [that] has set the firm apart from its rivals in Japan.”

"The US firm with the strongest Tokyo office."
(Legal 500 Asia Pacific 2013)

"Morrison & Foerster has an edge over other law firms in Japan by its depth of services."
(Chambers Asia Pacific 2013)

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