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Our Practice

Masuda Funai removes barriers and eases the process for international companies entering, operating and expanding into the United States. For nearly a century, our cross-border experience and knowledge of the business and legal systems in the U.S. have enabled us to provide solutions to the challenges and assist with the opportunities that our domestic and international clients face. Whether we are representing a small corporation entering the U.S. for the first time, or an established global entity with U.S. facilities, we know every aspect of the business life cycle and provide the full range of requisite legal services, from simple matters to highly complex transactions and disputes.

Our Clients

While the majority of our clients are foreign owned and operated, our practice spans many different industries, including automotive, advanced manufacturing, transportation and logistics, professional services, consumer products, food and food processing, and real estate. We represent both emerging and established global and domestic businesses, as well as academic and financial institutions. What we do best is simplify the process of doing business in the U.S. Notably, we have handled more Japanese mid-market acquisitions than any of our rivals. We also represent the U.S. operations of many European and other foreign companies. Having served a broad array of businesses from many different industries, we know what matters most to our clients.

Our Reach

Our diverse language capabilities and cultural acumen aid us in successfully understanding each client’s concerns, while developing solutions that effectively support their distinct business goals. We provide our clients that have international business interests access to global solutions through our membership with Alliott Global Alliance, an alliance of independent, mid-market, professional services firms. Alliott Global Alliance members are located in 80 countries throughout North, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Africa, Australia, and the Asia Pacific. Our global alliance has proven to be a valuable resource for the clients we serve.

Our Philosophy

Our focus is the steadfast pursuit of excellence. Understanding that our clients have a choice in the counsel they hire, we believe the client experience is paramount. We understand and respect differences and sensitivities in cultural sophistication and expectations. We value collaborative relationships that better allow us to give clients what they ask for and what they need to know. We work at the pace of our clients and their time zones, as well as anticipate their needs before they recognize them, by communicating proactively and frequently. Simply, we are dedicated to providing customized legal solutions, creative and practical advice, and extraordinary work product at every turn.

Our History

Masuda Funai was co-founded by Mr. Thomas Masuda and Mr. Masaru Funai. Mr. Masuda was born in Seattle, Washington on July 15, 1905. He earned his Bachelor’s and law degrees from the University of Washington. Mr. Masuda began practicing law in Washington in 1929 and in October, the stock market crashed and the U.S. economy spiraled into the Great Depression. Despite the backdrop of the Great Depression and the war in the 1930s, Mr. Masuda’s practice continued to grow.

December 7, 1941 was a significant date in U.S. history. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor and, on the same date, Mr. Masuda, who was an American citizen, was arrested and later charged with acting as an unregistered foreign agent because of his relationship with the Counsel General of Japan and representation of Mitsubishi Corporation, a Japanese-owned company. At Mr. Masuda’s trial, the prosecuting attorney was Mr. Masuda’s former law school classmate and the attorney who represented him was the head of the Seattle Bar Association. Mr. Masuda was later acquitted of all charges.

On February 19, 1942, Executive Order 9066 was signed and issued by President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the evacuation and incarceration of Japanese Americans living on the west coast. Within one week, Americans of Japanese ancestry were ordered to vacate their homes, leaving behind everything except what they could carry. Mr. Masuda was ordered to a relocation center the day after he was acquitted of criminal charges.

On March 18, 1942, Executive Order 9102 was signed authorizing the War Relocation Authority to hold people of Japanese ancestry at detention centers or relocation centers. Initially, Mr. and Mrs. Masuda were sent to the relocation center located at the Seattle Fair Grounds. They were then relocated to Poston, Arizona where Mr. Masuda was employed as an attorney earning $18/month for the War Relocation Authority.

In 1944, Mr. Masuda was selected to be a member of a task force to search for suitable resettlement sites in the U.S. for detainees to resettle after their release from relocation centers. Detainees were not allowed to resettle in their original homes in Washington, Oregon or California. Mr. Masuda evaluated Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. as possible resettlement sites. According to the National Archives, the U.S. government gave the released detainees a mere $600 to rebuild their lives. Resettlement required individuals to find jobs, housing, and buy necessary essentials to rebuild their lives. The hostile post-war environment, coupled with anti-Japanese sentiment, made life very difficult for the community.

That same year, Mr. and Mrs. Masuda were formally released from the Poston Relocation Center and they moved to Chicago to begin a new life. Upon his arrival to Chicago, Mr. Masuda was offered office space at 134 North LaSalle Street by an attorney named Stuart Nudelman. In 1952, the Consulate General of Japan was assigned to Chicago and Mr. Masuda met with the new Consulate General. He suggested that the Consulate General set up its offices and residence at the Bismarck Hotel, which was right next door to Mr. Masuda’s office. A close working relationship soon developed and, as new Japanese companies came to the Chicago area, they retained Mr. Masuda to represent them. Mr. Masuda purchased the Consulate General of Japan’s residence in Evanston and later transferred ownership to the Consulate. Mr. Masuda’s significant efforts on behalf of the nation of Japan and U.S. Japanese-American community were recognized by the government of Japan when he was awarded the Fifth and Fourth-Class Order of the Sacred Treasure. By the early 1960s, Mr. Masuda had established himself as a very prominent and well-respected member of the Japanese community in Chicago.

At one time, Mr. Masuda was Chairman of the Board of the Chicago Shimpo newspaper. He also was a founding director of the Chicago-Tokyo Bank. In 1967, Mr. Masuda was the president of the Chicago Japanese-American Council and served on the board of the Japanese Mutual Aid Society, Japanese American Service Committee, Japanese Chamber of Commerce & Industry, Japan America Society, Uptown Chicago Commission, and the Robert McCormick Boys and Girls Club. In 1981, Mr. Masuda was inducted into the Chicago Senior Citizens Hall of Fame and he passed away on April 4 , 1986.

Mr. Masaru Funai was born on June 25, 1930 in Hamakua, Hawaii to Japanese parents who had immigrated to Hawaii in 1902 from Japan in search of a better life. Mr. Funai’s father first grew coffee and then went into truck farming, helped by Mr. Funai and his six siblings. In high school, Mr. Funai was very active in student government. In college, he was an Army Reservist, which gave him the opportunity to qualify for the GI Bill. Mr. Funai graduated from the University of Hawaii in 1952 and then joined the Army to fulfill his military commitment. He won a commission with the Military Intelligence Service and was sent to the Fort Riley campus for Military Intelligence School. After Mr. Funai completed Military Intelligence School, he was assigned to the Far East Command, and he completed his military career as a First Lieutenant. Mr. Funai attended Northwestern University School of Law where he obtained his Juris Doctorate in 1957. After his admission to the bar, Mr. Funai worked for an insurance company.

In 1961, after being a solo-practitioner for some time, Mr. Funai joined Mr. Masuda’s practice, where he became a trusted advisor and legal counsel for numerous multi-national corporations. Throughout his career, he continued to serve the Japanese America community, frequently on a pro bono basis. Mr. Funai was awarded the Fourth-Class Order of the Sacred Treasure by the Emperor of Japan and Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2001.

Mr. Helmut Eifert was born on November 4, 1929 in Hessen, Germany. Mr. Eifert earned his Bachelor of Science and law degrees from Northwestern University. In 1958, he set up a general practice at 134 North LaSalle on the 13th Floor, four floors below Mr. Masuda’s office. In early 1969, Mr. Masuda asked Mr. Funai to hire a new associate. Mr. Funai asked Mr. Eifert, who was a classmate from Northwestern, to join the practice and in March of 1969, Mr. Eifert became the third member to join the Firm. After a long battle with cancer, Mr. Eifert passed away in 1995.

Mr. Jim Mitchell was born the son of a minister in Emporia, Kansas. Mr. Mitchell attended Northwestern University for his undergraduate and law school education. Graduating in the top of his law school class, he was a member of the law review and was inducted into the Order of the Coif. After graduation, Mr. Mitchell was hired by Schiff, Hardin & Waite and was a member of their litigation group. From 1962 to 1964. he worked in the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. In 1970, Mr. Mitchell joined Masuda, Funai and Eifert. However, the ministerial bug bit and he began attending theological studies at the University of Chicago while at the Firm, and soon became Reverend Mitchell. Reverend Mitchell left the Firm in 1986 to devote his time to the ministry in Michigan and Indiana. Mr. Mitchell passed away on December 28, 2018.

The four founding attorneys imparted a spirit of public service and commitment to providing the highest level of legal services to all clients, and that is reflected in the current culture of the Firm.