Asia Business Law Journal
Former Clyde & Co partner and head of its APAC hospitality practice, Benjamin Hirasawa, has launched his own regional practice, BH2I, as a leaner hybrid of traditional and virtual offices.
The firm comprises top-tier lawyers with decades of in-house and external counsel experience in complex hospitality, corporate and real estate transactions.
Hirasawa, BH2I’s founder and managing partner, has regional experience in the hospitality, corporate and real estate industries, representing many of the world’s global luxury hotel operating companies and institutional investors.
“BH2I stands for Benjamin Hirasawa Hospitality International,” Hirasawa to Asia Business Law Journal. “We are marketing under the BH2I name in an attempt to show the market that while we are appreciative that we are well-known for our hospitality expertise, that our foreign direct investment, private equity, corporate and real estate sector capabilities are also very much a part of our DNA.”
Headquartered in Singapore and Bangkok, BH2I specializes in advising real estate, corporate and hospitality clients on foreign direct investment. Other core offerings include international business transactions including private equity financings, joint ventures, cross-border M&A, and hotel, commercial and residential projects.
“We believe that BH2I’s lean business model, which features attorneys with large law firm pedigrees and reputation, and a hybrid bricks-and-mortar/virtual law firm structure, is genetically engineered to provide the market with greater value for legal services,” says Hirasawa.
He says larger global and institutional organizations have in the past adhered to a traditional mindset of wanting a large law firm with bricks-and-mortar offices in each city where they are located to work on their matters. “Many practitioners have wanted to streamline such a traditional law firm structure to use a business model that is similar to BH2I, but fear of widespread acceptance of a virtual law firm structure was viewed by many as an impediment to other potential firms and one of the perceived challenges we faced in setting up BH2I.
“The emerging post COVID19 ‘new normal’ environment has greatly assisted BH2I demonstrate that we offer efficiency and production of world-class work product in a hybrid virtual structure that can be superior to a cumbersome large law system and inflexible management model.”
BH2I’s team, formed by practitioners from international law firms such as Clyde & Co, DLA Piper and Rajah & Tann, will also include an extended affiliate network providing an execution capability in 37 countries and 27 languages.
Hirasawa said the firm would initially launch with eight full-time staff, including a managing partner, four associates and three administrative staff based in Singapore and Bangkok. Hirasawa will serve as managing partner for both offices, splitting his time between Bangkok and Singapore. The Singapore office has two associates and two administrative staff, while the Bangkok office has two associates and one administrative staff member.
Conversation With Benjamin Hirasawa, Founder Of BH2I.
Why have you chosen this time to launch your own firm?
The launch of BH2I has been in the making for several years and is a result of an unwavering dedication to always putting the client’s best interest first and responding to marketplace demands for personalized service and world class work product that adds value to the deal and provides certainty in legal spend.
Many large firms purport to have a “full service global offering “ but the reality is that most hospitality, real estate and corporate matters require specialized representation with intimate knowledge of the unique subtleties of international business transactions in the countries where the transactions occur; all transactions regardless of size or complexity should be properly staffed and receive the personal attention of dedicated practitioners who understand the clients’ industry and individual culture and way of doing business.
These attributes cannot be commoditized or addressed appropriately by non-germane global profit motivations, or attorneys masquerading as transactional sector practitioners based on their seniority, proficiency in different areas of the law, or other purported qualifications. The above inevitably results in a sacrifice of the client’s best interests.
Realizing the prevalence of the foregoing was the catalyst to launching a firm that is ethically superior to outdated business models and mindsets; waiting further to provide the representation with integrity that our clients deserve was never an option, notwithstanding COVID19.
How will your firm provide greater value to the business community?
We believe that BH2I’s lean business model that features attorneys with large law firm pedigrees and reputations and a hybrid bricks and mortar / virtual law firm structure is genetically engineered to provide the market with greater value for legal services
Clients see the shortcomings in their particular industry of the large law firm structure with inflexible management models, and have been progressive in realizing how a properly staffed firm with lean overhead that embraces tailor-made alternative fee arrangements provides more value to their external counsel engagements.
BH2I’s cohesive core team has decades of experience working together and a proven track record of delivering successful and efficient results for clients in the Asia Pacific region and beyond. We use this network, experience and approach to find new and better ways of solving challenges and moving past transaction impasses. Anyone can assess risk or state a position; we find solutions for our clients and get deals done while providing certainty in legal spend for clients.
How has COVID 19 affected the legal industry in Asia?
COVID19 has had a significant impact on most of transactional practices, as travel restrictions have limited or eliminated the ability to conduct physical due diligence and build face to face relationships that are integral in Asia. Many practices have had to pivot to try to create new revenue streams, while firms or practitioners who are nimble and understand the challenges that the businesses in a particular industry face have been better placed to continue to assist their clients.
The emerging post COVID19 “new normal” environment has greatly assisted BH2I demonstrate that we offer efficiency and production of world-class work product in a hybrid virtual structure that can be superior to a sometimes cumbersome large law system and inflexible management model.
How much of a role will legal technology play in your new firm?
BH2I’s lean hybrid bricks and mortar / virtual firm structure and embracing of cutting edge legal services technology and flexible alternative fee structures are genetically engineered to meet the market demand for innovative representation that prioritizes clients’ best interests at all times.
We have actively embraced legal AI software and practice management systems to reduce overhead and pass on these savings to our client. Finding innovative solutions in the automated contracting and in-house outsourcing spaces is a key part of our offering and legal technology will play a key role in our firm going forward.