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Japan to Crack Down on Foreign Lawyers

As I posted a few months back, legal markets overseas are providing a refuge for associates to ride out the economic downturn in the United States. But for associates hoping to work in a law firm branch office in Japan, that option may no longer be available. According to Legal Week, the Japan Federal Bar Association recently announced that all foreign lawyers including associates and of counsel, must be formally registered to practice. 

The trouble for younger associates is that to register as a gaiben, a lawyer must have practiced for at least three years, two of which have to be outside of Japan. And the registration process can take anywhere from six months to two years. Said a Tokyo-based partner of a U.S. firm quoted in the article, "That would mean no more junior associates at all."

Still, several lawyers believe that the proposal contains enough ambiguity to leave open a loophole for associates. For example, some lawyers note that the Japanese definition of practicing law presumes that a lawyer is acting independently. Thus, an associate acting under supervision would not be deemed to be practicing law and, as such, would not be subject to the restrictions. 

However, firms will need to supervise associates to steer clear of the registration requirement. According to Tsutomu Miyano, a partner at Anderson Mori & Tomotsune, the Japan bar enacted the registration requirement as a reaction to perceived abuses by foreign law firms whose unregistered associates sometimes attend meetings alone, sign documents or otherwise act independently.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on February 10, 2009 at 03:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)


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