Features

Yuta Hashimoto – IHI Americas 

Guiding the success of Japanese diversified industrial company 

People become lawyers for many reasons. Having an attorney for a parent often leads a child to pursue that same career path. Sometimes, a lawyer got interested in the field by watching TV shows or movies featuring legal practitioners, and others realized that they were good at settling differences amongst friends.  

But Yuta Hashimoto is a lawyer for a different reason.  

Yuta Hashimoto | General Counsel | IHI Americas 

Yuta Hashimoto | General Counsel | IHI Americas

“It started when I first took a civil law class at a university in Japan. Civil law is one of Japan’s primary legal frameworks, and the revelation that contracts are tools designed to facilitate people’s lives was a bolt from the blue for me,” Hashimoto says.  

Enhancing people’s lives is something Hashimoto does every day in his role as general counsel for IHI Americas. 

IHI Corporation is a prominent Japanese company that produces energy-related facilities, aircraft engines, automobile turbochargers, industrial machines, suspension bridges and other transport-related machinery. Hashimoto leads the legal department for IHI Americas, the parent company’s regional headquarters for North America and Latin America. 

In his role, Hashimoto is responsible for handling negotiations, drafting and litigation, as well as creating internal policies for IHI Americas. He plays a crucial role in guiding the organization through the cultural differences between the legal worlds in the U.S. and Japan. 

Additionally, Hashimoto is at the forefront of IHI’s efforts to address climate change and contribute to renewable energy sources such as ammonia combustion projects, compact nuclear power plants, and the battery business. The company is also involved in the aerospace and aviation industries, including the electrification of aircraft.  

“I find the technology involved in these areas particularly exciting because of their potential to shape the future,” he says.  

For the business 

IHI Group is currently in a period of transformation. With a history dating back to 1853, the company has continually adapted its core technologies to meet the demands of each era. Currently, the organization is transforming areas related to aerospace, energy and space exploration.  

Yuta Hashimoto | General Counsel | IHI Americas 

Hashimoto says the company must develop new technologies and venture into new businesses in line with the demands of the times. In 2023, he says IHI pledged to invest about $3.5 billion in new fields and technologies—this is not limited to just its Americas operations.  

“In the legal department, we anticipate an increase in M&A, joint ventures and technology development projects aligning with the company strategy,” Hashimoto explains. “Our goal for 2024 is to handle these cases effectively and to support these projects however we can.” 

In April, Hashimoto began leading the compliance department, and he says there are tasks already planned that aim to improve the workplace environment and promote employee morale. He aims to update the company’s shared values to reflect the constant changes and refine the compliance program to ensure a workplace where everyone feels welcomed and happy. 

Adaptability and inclusivity 

Having the mindset to do right by others can be traced back to the challenges Hashimoto and his family faced since his daughter was diagnosed with a genetic disorder when she was 18 months old. He says the time since has illuminated the true essence of diversity and inclusivity and taught him the invaluable skill of listening and understanding diverse backgrounds and stories. It is a foundational element of his professional work and his broader mission in life.  

Yuta Hashimoto | General Counsel | IHI Americas 

“I’ve come to see that fostering an environment where every individual’s unique perspective is valued not only enriches our workplace but also drives innovation and creativity,” he shares. “My ambition is to mend the gaps due to cultural differences using business as a conduit for positive change.” 

With only 24 hours in a day, Hashimoto is excited about how artificial intelligence can help improve efficiency in the legal department and his practice. Over the past few years, he has seen marked improvement in AI’s accuracy and anticipates even more improvements. IHI deals with cutting-edge technology, so the changes in its business sectors are significant.  

For example, 10 years ago, IHI’s energy sector operation in the United States was primarily focused on the shale gas-related business. Still, recently, due to the demand for zero emissions, sustainable technologies have become crucial. 

“As legal counsel, one of our key missions is to stay informed about regulatory changes and legal solutions to new challenges. Utilizing AI for these tasks can be highly efficient,” Hashimoto explains. “However, we can’t blindly trust AI and are committed to thoroughly verifying its outputs.” 

A legal love story  

Hashimoto earned a law degree from Keio University and joined the legal department for IHI shortly thereafter. He worked on various matters that taught him about the diversity of international contracts and law. That led him to America to pursue an LLM from the Boston University School of Law, where he learned things crucial to his career.  

“In Japan, education tends to be more about listening to lectures, but in the U.S., classes are more participatory, and you’re not engaged unless you speak up,” he recalls. “This was a challenge because English was not my first language. Every day felt like a struggle.” 

Yuta Hashimoto | General Counsel | IHI Americas 

After completing his studies in Boston, Hashimoto spent about two years in New York City at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, learning everything he could about U.S. law. He returned to IHI Americas in 2013 during a time of rapid expansion and was promoted to general counsel in March. He hasn’t looked back.  

Hashimoto’s maternal great-grandfather left Japan alone in 1921 to study at the University of Missouri before attending Cornell University’s graduate school to pursue philosophy. He moved to Paris and continued his philosophical studies at Sorbonne University. Upon his return to Japan in 1927, he published translations of texts from Greek philosophers, including Aristotle and Plato—who were largely unknown in Japan at the time.  

Moreover, Hashimoto’s grandfather had a doctorate in literature and, while studying in England, encountered the stories of Thomas the Tank Engine. He brought them back to Japan and translated and popularized the now-famous characters. The stories remain extremely popular and loved in Japan to this day. 

“Reflecting on this, I realize my goal of bridging cultures to enrich people’s lives might stem from such familial legacies,” Hashimoto says. “Though our fields differ, the underlying aspiration to connect and enrich through our respective domains is a shared thread in our family’s fabric.” 

View this feature in the Vanguard Spring II 2024 Edition here.

Published on: April 11, 2024

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