Shinichiro Abe: founding partner of Kasumigaseki International Law Office in Tokyo

What led you to focus on cross-border restructuring and insolvency?

I studied US bankruptcy law in the US and had a lot of opportunities to deal with cross-border insolvency cases, such as the Enron bankruptcy, and out-of-court workouts among financial institutions during my stay there. This experience led me to deal with more cross-border cases.

What is the most satisfying aspect of the practice?

There are usually so many stakeholders to negotiate with. The representatives are smart and talented people with whom I enjoy working.  

What has been the highlight of your career to date?

Regarding cross-border aspects, I was appointed as an attorney for several creditors that had to negotiate with the Lehman group. 

What was the most memorable case or project you’ve ever worked on and why?

I filed the restructuring of a famous insurance company under Japanese insolvency law. We needed to negotiate and did a lot of preparatory work with a governmental authority before the filing. This kind of work was novel for me. 

Where is the most interesting place your work has taken you?

I think you can enjoy working anywhere, if you enjoy working on your cases.

What has been the greatest challenge you’ve faced in your career so far?

Studying US bankruptcy law in the US.

If you could go back in time and give one piece of advice to yourself when you were starting out, what would it be?

To work with talented lawyers.

What do you predict will be the hottest topics in cross-border insolvency and restructuring in the next five years?

Not predictable.

How are things different in cross-border restructuring and insolvency now to when you started practising?

There were so few out-of-court workouts among financial institutions when I started practising. Now we Japanese have adopted "Turnaround ADR" [a process used by Japanese companies since 2007 to adjust their debt without having to undergo bankruptcy proceedings], which is similar to INSOL’s eight Global Principles for Multi-Creditor Workouts. This type of out-of-court workout has become a popular new trend in Japan.

Can you identify some “crisis” points in the history of cross-border insolvency and restructuring that have had a significant impact on how things are done? How have they changed things?

The 2007 crisis had a significant impact on our Japanese industries, because so many companies were involved in insolvency proceedings, which gave them more knowledge and experience of cross-border insolvency cases.

Are there any parts of the insolvency and restructuring law in your jurisdiction that tend to catch cross-border practitioners out

While we made several new insolvency laws, which were influenced by the UNCITRAL Model Law, we have not yet adopted court to court communication provisions.

If you had not been a lawyer, what career would you have liked to pursue?

I would be a public prosecutor.

Tell us something about yourself that most people wouldn’t know.

I have been teaching company restructuring at Chuo Law School [in Tokyo] for over a decade.

If you could have dinner and conversation with anybody – in history, or alive today – who would it be and why?

Anyone who would enjoy dinner with me!

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