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Attorney at law (Japan)

 

Attorney at law (Japan)

In Japan, Attorneys at law (弁護士 bengoshi?, lit. “advocate”) form the base of the country's legal community. They are the only individuals authorized to represent others and they are automatically qualified to practice in most Japanese legal professions. They are also authorized to give advice on matters of law.

The legal industry

As of 1 March 2011, there are 30,516 attorneys registered with bar associations in Japan[1] (up from 22,049 on April 2005).[2] According to data collected by the JBFA in March 2011, out of the 30,516 member attorneys it had at the time, 5,123 of them (16.79%) were female[1][3] (compared to 13% on April 2005).[2]

Due to cultural traditions, Japanese have rarely used lawsuits as a means to settle disputes.[4] With the rise of patent-disputes and international mergers, however, Japan is facing a shortage of lawyers, and the government has allowed universities to offer graduate courses on law, in order to ease the shortage.[4] The recent push to produce lawyers has also been reflected in the demographics of the legal community, where 25.3% of the lawyers surveyed have only been admitted to the bar for less than 5 years.[5]

Starting salaries for Japanese attorneys are typically around 10 million yen (US$100,000) in established law firms, and about half as much in Japanese companies. In-house counsel are still relatively rare in Japan, with only 770 of the 32,000 registered bengoshi working in corporate law departments as of January 2013.[6]

Foreign law firms have been permitted to hire Japanese attorneys since 2005, and some such firms such as Morrison & Foerster and White & Case have built large Japanese law practices that handle domestic matters for domestic clients. Some foreign firms that built bengoshi practices under this system, such as Linklaters and Allen & Overy, have since downsized or eliminated their bengoshi teams, while others such as Herbert Smith Freehills elected to rely on referral relationships with the Big Four law firms rather than competing with them by employing bengoshi within the firm.[7]

Qualification

With several minor exceptions, attorneys at law are required to pass a national bar examination (司法試験 shihō shiken?, lit. "legal examination") followed by one year of internship, supervised by the Legal Research and Training Institute (司法研修所 Shihō Kenshūjo?) of the Supreme Court of Japan.

Unlike other countries, having a law degree is not a prerequisite for participating in bar examinations, although changes in examination rules have introduced additional requirements for those who sit for the examination without a law degree.

Bar Examination

Before 2006, the bar examination consisted of three stages. The first stage, held in May, consisted of 60 multiple choice questions regarding constitutional law, civil law and criminal law. The second stage, held over two days in July, consisted of twelve essay questions regarding constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, commercial law, civil procedure law and criminal procedure law. The final stage, held in October, was an oral examination regarding constitutional law, civil law, criminal law, civil procedure law and criminal procedure law. Final results were published in mid-November. On average, 40,000 to 50,000 people took the first stage, 7,000 to 8,000 qualified for the second stage, and only 1,500 qualified for the oral examination each year.

In 2006, a new bar examination was instituted with only two stages. The first stage is a one-day short-answer examination concerning the six laws as well as administrative law. The second stage is a three-day essay examination concerning public law, civil law and criminal law, as well as subjects that can be selected by the examinee (including labor law, environmental law, public international law, and private international law). In addition, a law school requirement was introduced. All bar examination participants must complete a two or three-year graduate law program, and are limited to taking the examination three times within five years after graduation.

Those who have not graduated from law school may take the bar examination after passing a preliminary qualifying examination.

Bar association membership

In addition to passing bar examinations, an attorney must also be a member of the bar association (弁護士会 bengoshikai?) for the prefecture where the law office is located. According to a 2008 survey by the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA), 39.4% of all lawyers belong to the three Tokyo bar associations (Tokyo Bar Association, First Tokyo Bar Association, and Second Tokyo Bar Association).[5]

Membership for foreign attorneys

Before World War II, attorneys qualified in foreign countries could join a Japanese bar with special permission from the Supreme Court. These individuals were referred to as quasi-members (準会員 junkaiin?) of the bar. None remain in practice today.[1]

The quasi-membership was abolished by judicial reforms in 1955,[1] and was replaced by the attorney at foreign law (外国法事務弁護士 gaikokuhō jimu bengoshi?) membership in 1986. There are 363 attorneys at foreign law in Japan as of June 2013.[1]

Attorneys in Okinawa who had been admitted as U.S. attorneys before the repatriation in 1972 were admitted as Japanese attorneys. They are classified by the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) as "Special members in Okinawa", and nine of them are still in practice as of June 2013.[1]

Corporate membership

Large law firms have been organized in Tokyo, Osaka and other major cities, and have grown dramatically in recent years. Since 2002, these law firms can also join as members in their own right.[1] They are classified by the JBFA as Legal Profession Corporation (弁護士法人 bengoshi hōjin?),[1][3] and there are 489 law firms who joined the bar in this capacity as of 1 March 2011.[1]

See also

References

External links

  • Japan Federation of Bar Associationsja:弁護士
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