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Japan UnderGround >> Practicing law in Japan?


10/5/04 10:39 PM
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bjjguy
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Edited: 05-Oct-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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I know this question has been asked here before, but does anyone know what the job market is like for American attorneys in Japan? I wouldn't mind getting an LLM if necessary. My wife is Japanese, so getting a work visa, or the Japanese equivalent wouldn't be a problem. Any advice or thoughts would be much appreciated.
10/6/04 12:05 AM
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Opash
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Edited: 06-Oct-04
Member Since: 03/14/2002
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Do you mean practising American law? I guess you could try and get a gig representing a big U.S. owned firm that has offices in Japan. Maybe you could have a job working on a Military base in Japan (I figure the use U.S. law there). If not then, I imagine you would need to be qualified in Japanese and/or International law - and have a good standard of Japanese If your wife is Japanese, then I'm sure your language skills are decent, I guess its a qualifications thing. BTW - I have no knowledge of law in Japan and the above is purely specualtion. I have had foreign friends with Japanese spouses who had a little difficulty obtaining visa's (in Japan nothing is simple).
10/6/04 10:36 AM
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SILK
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Edited: 06-Oct-04 10:46 AM
Member Since: 01/01/2001
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I'm a qualified lawyer and have a masters in international business law. Also living in Japan now. If you want to practise as an attorney you'll have to pass the local bar exams and all that jazz. So it would be way better to be a legal consultant for a corporation, NGO or the like. Also depends what kinda law you looking to get into? And of course there is the language barrier. If you want to be an attorney here you will have to know some pretty advanced kanji and all related legal terminology. Opash is very correct in that your best bet would be to get transfered here from the outside. Alternatively your best bet is not what you know but who you know. Give us some more details into what you are looking for . All the best Silk
10/7/04 8:56 PM
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hamu86
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Edited: 07-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
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Silk, what do you mean by local bar exams? I do not know of any foreigners who have passed Japan's shiho-shiken.
10/8/04 6:26 AM
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SILK
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Edited: 08-Oct-04 06:49 AM
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By local I meant passing the Japanese National Bar Examination. It has a VERY low pass rate (In 2002 under 3% passed). If you want to be an attorney here thats what you gotta do. But there are other options to legally trained people from other countries. If you're recently starting out in law,I think the best would be to get a masters in an International field so you have scope to move around in the future, and then get transferred to Japan. Personally also would prefer being a legal consultant than an attorney. here is a good website about being an Attorney in Japan - its from the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations(Also deals a bit with foreigners): http://www.nichibenren.or.jp/en/about/system.html I think though your biggest obsticle would be the language barrier. Legal language is difficult to understand in any language. Now add the fact that Japanese doesnt have a 26 lettet alphabet but uses thousands of kanji... As an idea - you mentioned you were willing to do a Masters, and you want to practice in Japan. How about combining the 2? Do a Master of Laws in Japan!:) In that way by the time you finish your studies you will be more familiar with the local system, would have networked within your profession, and would have a Japanese degree. continued...
10/8/04 6:51 AM
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SILK
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Edited: 08-Oct-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 3623
It seems that since the late eighties Americans have however been able to practice AMERICAN law in Japan. I'm not sure if they have to pass the local (ie Japanese) Bar Exams. There is also some easing of restrictions on foreign lawyers practicing in Japan. Also keep in mind that the duties and roles of Japanese lawyers aren't always the same as what we are used to in the West. you can check out this link: http://www.davidappleyard.com/japan/jp5.htm
10/10/04 8:50 PM
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gakami
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Edited: 10-Oct-04
Member Since: 04/07/2003
Posts: 8466
The Japanese legal system is very regulated I thought, the bar exam having a very low pass rate being one of the ways they regulate the legal industry. Wouldn't you say that someone with a foreign law degree has a very low chance of succeeding as a lawyer in Japan? Unless the lawyer already works for a multi-national firm and is transferred into Japan? Also if you want to study law in Japan your Japanese had better be up to the level of the native speakers.
10/14/04 9:33 PM
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hamu86
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Edited: 14-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
Posts: 5
cf http://asia.news.yahoo.com/041011/kyodo/d85kssgo0.html
10/14/04 9:33 PM
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hamu86
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Edited: 14-Oct-04 09:34 PM
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Not exactly a piece of cake.
10/24/04 12:53 AM
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bjjguy
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Edited: 24-Oct-04
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Thanks for the responses. I think my only bet would be to practice with at a branch office of an American firm. There are a fair amount in Tokyo. I will probably try to send out some resumes next hiring season, especially once I know when I will be visiting again. SILK, You mentioned that you gave up law to teach English in Japan, how much of a paycut was that in the long run?
10/24/04 1:10 AM
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gakami
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Edited: 24-Oct-04
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"Thanks for the responses." We have logs of multiple timesheets on you. You will be billed. "You mentioned that you gave up law to teach English in Japan, how much of a paycut was that in the long run? " English teachers in Japan don't make much money (when the Japanese standard of living is taken into account). Having said that the English teachers who make the most money are the ones with English teaching qualifications who teach at universities. ttt for SILK
10/24/04 3:41 AM
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SILK
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Edited: 24-Oct-04
Member Since: 01/01/2001
Posts: 3693
DAMN! Shoulda stayed a lawyer so I could bill for any response and advice given ;-) Just kidding. About the paycut, short term I took a pay RISE when coming to Japan. People say Japan is an expensive country. it probably is if you are here as a tourist and converting back into your local currency when buying a beer ($8 for a beer????) However, I don't think Japan is an expensive country at all if you are living and earning here. If you start as a teacher at a conversational chain school (NOVA,...) you usually start on around 250 000 a month. After you settle yourself in and figure out where to buy your groceries and stuff (within 6 months probably), you can comfortably save around 100 000yen a month. if you go out boozing every night obviously your savings will be less. Gakami is correct (AGAIN!!) about teaching in Uni's. Though you don't need a teaching qualification. Just a masters and preferably publications. I work at a uni at the mo, and its great fun, not a particularly demanding job(especially compared to law), gives loads of job satisfaction and you get plenty holidays. If you work at uni 5 days a week you can quite easily make 500 000yen a month. Now I know several Japanese salary men who are making a lot less than a conversational school per month. however, they get other benefits and bonuses which brings up their salary. About the pay rise-probably might not be applicable top you. I'm from South Africa. Being a third world country the salaries are not so high, ESPECIALLY if you are starting out. If you are not working at a top 10 firm, then a salary of 3000 - 4000 Rands/month is not unheard of. As a teacher in Japan I made the equivalent of 22 000 Rands a month. I would probably get a higher salary after years of work and moving up the corporate ranks. But that leads to my last point (SORRY FOR THE LONG READ!). It wasnt about the money. it was about lifestyle. Most lawyers I know (except the ones with contacts or daddies firm), are pretty much married to their job. Long hours, weekends. I prefer to work to live, and not live to work. Didn't have that much time for training, eating wasn't that regular (Lots of it on the go, or while consulting with a client). Comparing that with teaching, teaching is a joke. Evenings off(except when prepping for class), weekends off, almost 3 months holiday for summer, a month in spring, No judge climbing down your neck cause he's in a foul mood, no clients moaning and bitching about a situation they got themselves into, half the time lieing to you anyhow, no boss telling you that you need to write more fees. So maybe many years down the line, having stayed a lawyer I could be wealthy(barring doctors fees for ulcers and so on;). But right now I have loads of time on my hands, make enough money to watch about 3 kickboxings/mma shows a month, eat out regularly and still manage to pay off a student loan and pay into a mutual fund. If law is your thing then go for it! Lotta respect to lawyers. Lots of pressure there (I always get a good laugh when teachers talk about their jobs as "stressfull")
10/25/04 1:47 AM
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hamu86
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
Posts: 7
I could be wrong, but my understanding is that foreign lawyers may practice in Japan without passing Japan's bar examination. However -- at least in the case of American lawyers -- one must be admitted to the bar of an American state to practice as an attorney anywhere. Without being admitted to practice somewhere, at most one can work as a paralegal in a foreign law firm. And of course, without passing the Japanese bar exam, one would not be entitled to advise on matters of local law. But I reiterate that I'm not 100% sure about these matters.
10/25/04 1:55 AM
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gakami
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
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"one must be admitted to the bar of an American state to practice as an attorney anywhere. " How can that be possible? I was under the impression that American lawyers can't even practice in another US state if they hadn't passed the bar for that particular state.
10/25/04 2:38 AM
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hamu86
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
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Sorry, that sentence may have come out wrong. I did not mean to suggest that being admitted to practice in one state entitles an attorney to practice everywhere. You are correct; a New York license does not even enable one to practice in New Jersey. There are, though, certain reciprocity rules, depending on the state. At any rate, my main point is that one can't be employed as an attorney by the Tokyo office of an American law firm without already being admitted to practice as an attorney somewhere in the U.S. Or so I have been led to believe. Rules may also differ for law practitioners from other countries.
10/25/04 2:54 AM
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gakami
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
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"one can't be employed as an attorney by the Tokyo office of an American law firm without already being admitted to practice as an attorney somewhere in the U.S. Or so I have been led to believe." Ah ok I see your point now. You'd basically have to go through the usual recruitment procedures in the US law firm and work your way up to being transferred to the Japan branch of the said US law firm.
10/25/04 3:04 AM
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hamu86
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
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Actually, I know some people who were hired directly out of law school as first-year associates by the Tokyo offices of American law firms. It is rare, but it can happen.
10/25/04 3:17 AM
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gakami
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
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"Actually, I know some people who were hired directly out of law school as first-year associates by the Tokyo offices of American law firms. It is rare, but it can happen." Wow .. what area of law did they end up practicing? Which law firms are these ones? What experience did they have prior to studying law? Maybe they spoke Japanese really well, or had lived and worked in Japan previously so they are familiar with Japanese business tradition and customs.
10/25/04 3:48 AM
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hamu86
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
Member Since: 08/17/2004
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I would imagine that the large U.S. firms have limited use for litigators here, so the work is mostly transaction-oriented. Most of these guys are Japanese nationals.
10/25/04 3:57 AM
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gakami
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
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"Most of these guys are Japanese nationals." ah there you go.
10/25/04 10:08 PM
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hamu86
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Edited: 25-Oct-04
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"ah there you go." Sorry, I'm not quite sure what your point is. In any case, it's difficult to practice as an attorney in Japan, whether locally qualified or not.
10/31/04 1:19 AM
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bjjguy
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Edited: 31-Oct-04
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I think he meant "there you go" to mean that b/c they were Japanese nationals it was easier for them to find work. Also, it is def. true that to work in a branch of an American firm you must pass the bar in any state or DC, and this may vary based on the firm. And of course the work is all transactional work, litigation is left to the Japanese firms, or so I'm told. I have accepted a summer position here in the US for the upcoming summer, but may send out some resumes in the fall of my third year (next year) and see what turns up. I've also thought about doing Temple's study abroad in Tokyo, seeing if I coudl make some connections, pick up some Japanese, etc. Thanks for the input
1/8/05 10:48 PM
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Atomic
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Edited: 08-Jan-05
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My American friend works for Nintendo doing international law. She likes it. Not sure what she does, though.
1/8/05 11:08 PM
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gakami
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Edited: 08-Jan-05
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" My American friend works for Nintendo doing international law. She likes it. Not sure what she does, though." Is she's a lawyer working for nintendo, then that means she's their in-house lawyer. She deals with legal/business/contractual/etc transactions specifically for nintendo.
1/17/05 1:45 AM
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mestregruber
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Edited: 17-Jan-05
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SILK- Were you able to get a teaching position at a university in Japan with your law degree? I am trying to decide what to study in grad school, and most of the university jobs I have seen here seem to want someone with a TESL-related degree for the university lecturer-type positions. Do you think it's possible to get those kind of jobs (which, as you said, are by far the best-paying English teaching jobs in Japan,) with any kind of graduate degree?

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