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Cityguide: Tokyo

by on February 25, 2010

Tokyo is without a doubt one of the most exciting cities in the world, so it is often one of the first places that lawyers from cities like New York and London look to when they consider working in Asia.  It is not difficult for firms to recruit quality talent to the Tokyo market.  However, there are some barriers that can make Tokyo a difficult place for legal professionals to find employment.

There are restrictions that prevent foreign lawyers from overseas from practicing Japanese law.
However, there are still many opportunities for expat lawyers in Japan, both in-house and in practice.  This is primarily due to the relative shortage of Japanese qualified lawyers (Bengoshi). Japan is the  second largest economy and in the world and boasts a population of more than 130 million. However, there are only about 20,000 licensed lawyers.   Further, a relatively small number of those are qualified to practice in Japan are actually  equipped to work on the complex corporate and finance projects required by the World’s leading economies.

So, don’t be too daunted by the prospect of strict practice limits.  If you have excellent credentials and are highly skilled in banking, finance and corporate law (an even IP or negotiation) firms will find a place for you.

Of course there’s the issue of actually living in Tokyo and determing if it’s the right fit for you.  Attorneys from certain cities with a slower pace and lots of open space (Los Angeles comes to mind) may find Tokyo to be less than ideal.  But, given the state of the economy, anyone even considering making such a big move will more than likely find that, while it may not be home for the long term, a few years in such a vibrant city and huge market is very appealing.

As always, you might want to start with the government’s website to begin accumulating a list of resources that you’ll need.  It can be found HERE.

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