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LLM Alumnus Serves as Legal Counsel in Joint Venture between Ube Industries and Dow Chemical

Ryo Kawamura

Kawamura (second from right) at Dow-UBE joint venture announcement.

Ryo Kawamura, the Senior Legal Advisor for Ube Industries, Ltd. (UBE)’s Legal Department and a 1999 graduate of the LL.M. Program at Wake Forest University School of Law, has a front row seat in a new venture between UBE and Dow Chemical Co.

UBE, one of Japan’s top chemical companies, recently announced it has established a joint venture with Dow Chemical Co. to manufacture and market formulated electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries.

This agreement will bring about the creation of Advanced Electrolyte Technologies, LLC, which will manufacture the electrolytes in Michigan starting in 2012. The agreement was formally signed at a press conference in Michigan, where Dow Chemical Vice President Heinz Haller and Ube Industries Managing Executive Officer Shinobu Watanabe authorized the contract. Sitting in the audience at the press conference was Kawamura.

Kawamura has worked for UBE since graduating from Chou University with a Bachelor of Laws degree in 1991. UBE sponsored Kawamura’s pursuit of an LL.M. degree in the U.S. so that he could study American law and build up a network of connections. Kawamura was allowed to choose the LL.M. program he attended and was persuaded to come to WFU after Professor Alan Palmiter, who would serve as Kawamura’s faculty advisor, told him during the admissions process, “You are the first Japanese student to attend WFU Law School. You must act as a pioneer and you can make history!”

Kawamura states, “I’m not sure whether or not [Palmiter] remembers it, but his words are how I decided to go to WFU Law School.”

After taking many business courses, including Palmiter’s Business Organizations and Associate Dean for International Affairs Richard Schneider’s International Business Transactions, Kawamura earned an LL.M. degree. Upon his return to UBE, Kawamura states, “I faced many difficult cases and situations as a legal counsel.” He motivated himself by remembering that his work was “much easier than law school classes and examinations.”

Kawamura was appointed as Legal Counsel for UBE’s joint venture with Dow Chemical after representatives from both companies met for the first time in June 2010. He made his first visit to Michigan, where Dow is headquartered, in September of 2010. He recalls that the “negotiations were so tough and made us so tired and nervous. With some bumps and detours, finally, we both reached an agreement to establish a 50-50 joint venture company in the end of June [2011].”

He states that it has been “really tough work, but now it has made me happy.” As modest as always, Kawamura states, “Now, I feel I’m making myself useful to Ube.” But it is apparent that Kawamura has been very useful to his employer. In addition to his work in the joint venture with Dow, Kawamura served as Legal Counsel in an agreement between Ube and Amperex Technology Limited (ATL) to license several UBE-owned patents on lithium-ion rechargeable batteries and electrolytes to ATL.

In a message to Palmiter, Kawamura credits WFU for his professional success by writing, “You and WFU Law School gave me wonderful skills and experience!”

Even more exciting for Kawamura is the possibility that Dean Schneider will use the joint venture between UBE and Dow as a sample case in his International Business Transactions course, the same course in which Kawamura was enrolled 13 years ago. Kawamura’s reaction? “It must be wonderful for me.”

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