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A lawyer’s life in Japan

by on June 28, 2010

Many lawyers are seeking jobs after layoffs in the last year, but some are simply seeking new opportunities, often abroad.  If you are one of the latter, you might want to read an article by Ernest Schaal, an attorney who has lived and worked in Japan for a years. Mr. Schaal is a retired IP lawyer who lives in Gifu City, Japan and he offers some insight into his time in Japan as well as stories from other attorneys who have taken the plunge and worked abroad.  He writes:

“I have always wanted to work in Japan, ever since being stationed here in the late 1960s, but I couldn’t find a job here until 2001. I have retired, and we live in a spa area in Gifu, north of Nagoya.

There aren’t that many American lawyers in this part of Japan, so in researching this article, I queried the ABA’s Solosez mailing list. The response was great. It even led to other mailing lists specifically designed for expat lawyers. God bless the Internet.”

Other anecdotes, both from Mr. Schaal and others, include:

“During our last trip to the States, I loved the big bookstores filled with English-language books, but I missed the jazz, the good service, the safety, and the civility of Japan. When we got back to Gifu, it was nice to be home.”

“In Japan, S. McIntire Allen found that there is less feedback about work and, while one is expected to do what one can, those who don’t pull their weight are not derided. Also, there is less creative thinking about how to solve problems, and people aren’t as willing to pick up the phone and just ask a question. Japan is a safer place to live, where women do not have to worry about being out on a street late at night. On the other hand, the Japanese seem to thrive on keeping foreigners apart from them.”

“I found that Japan has great health care, team culture, and socialization outside office hours. The Japanese really know how to party. On the other hand, it is hard getting CLE credits needed for US state bars, the Japanese language is difficult to learn, and management styles tend to be paternalistic. In one speech to our firm, the chairman recommended that the staff vote for a particular candidate in the mayoral election. His candidate lost.”

So, there are definite pros and cons to working anywhere overseas. but you should read the full article because, like some of the commenters, you might find your most exciting challenges and a new home while working abroad.  Visit us at Law Alliance to see our latest law firm jobs in Japan.


From → Asia Insight, tokyo

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