When looking for legal services, find the right professional first. That rule applies not only where you are, but also in Japan. Origin Law Office (OLO) is a virtual law practice dedicated to overcoming obstacles to find a legal specialist in Japan. OLO can find the proper professional for your matter at the proper price.
While Japan is often said to have dramatically fewer lawyers than other countries such as the United States, the total proportion of legal specialists in both countries is about the same. This is due to Japanese law being based on the Continental system. In the Japanese legal system a smaller number of advocating jurists complements a larger number of civil law practitioners.
In contrast to other jurisdictions which might have only attorneys and paralegals, some of the major legal professions in Japan are:
Certified Public Accountant
Certified Social Insurance and Labor Consultant
Certified Tax Accountant
Foreign Registered Lawyers (FRL)i? 1/4
General Practice Attorneys (GP attorneys)
Maritime procedure commission agent
Notary public (considerably more duties and responsibilities than Western notaries)
Moreover, Japan rewards insularity. Consequently, many of the best professionals do not focus on English skills. A good example is the teaching industry in Japan. Teachers who fail to obtain Science, Math, Japanese, Music or other core teaching certifications, often become English teachers instead.
A similar situation occurs in the Japanese legal industry. Unlike international firms in other developed nations, 'international' boutique firms in Japan are often created by a Japanese attorney who could not make the grade in the domestic legal industry. Instead, he chose to focus on his English skills so he could compete in a market less exposed to competition among qualified practitioners. For foreign clients this often results in overpayment for an overqualified professional who does not have the specialized skills.
A brand new day
Japan is ready for a new approach to legal services. The introduction of the graduate law school degree licensing track, the start of the citizen judge system and recent political and diplomatic events in Japan are the beginning of a new phase in Japanese jurisprudence. Although the process of introducing the law school system to Japan has not been flawless, the problems are transitional. The legal education system anywhere is continually evolving.
The difficulties with the new law school system in Japan do need to be addressed, yet the legal professional licensing system in America has taken more than a century to evolve. During that time, different jurisdictions in America have developed examination systems of widely varying success, so the fact that Japan's Juris Doctorate vetting program has had a few hiccups after three years of producing general practice (GP) attorneys is hardly a surprise.
A brand new firm
The main purpose of Origin Law Offices (OLO) is to provide customers with first class legal service on a par with any legal practice anywhere in the world. OLO is a virtual law practice permitted to advise, counsel and practice law:
On matters within the jurisdiction where the firm is authorized to practice;
For clients who are residents of the jurisdiction where the firm is authorized to practice; or,
When the firm engages outside legal professionals licensed in the relevant jurisdiction.
OLO is managed by a foreign attorney with experience living and working in London, New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Osaka. Predominantly a transactional law firm with a focus on Intellectual Property, particularly biomedical and computing, the firm will take on any matters for which OLO can find qualified legal professionals to advise the client. For example, besides commercial matters, the firm provides advises on Family Law, Trusts and Estates, Criminal and Immigration matters.
Japan is world famous for teamwork. Commercial enterprises of American and European origin are infamous for counterproductive fiefdoms. Ironically, the culture of Japanese law firms compared to the culture of American and European law firms is the inverse of the general reputation of the respective cultures' approaches to workplace teamwork.
American and European law firms are built of departments and teams cooperating to tackle matters. In contrast, stereotypically Japanese GP attorneys try to minimize support personnel involvement, and build walls to protect their caseload from any sort of involvement by their fellow legal practitioners. Productive law firms often have a ratio of two support staff for every attorney. This focuses skills and maximizes cost efficiency.
Translators translate. Editors edit. Proofreaders proofread. Attorneys counsel. Scriveners scribe, whether administratively or judicially.
Patent attorneys patent. Secretaries, IT personnel, and anyone else does what they do best to build the firm. If attorneys are doing secretarial work, the firm suffers as much as if secretaries are counseling the law.
To be clear: the idea is not that support personnel are not able. Indeed, in most successful legal enterprises anywhere in the world, the support personnel, particularly legal secretaries, tend to be the cleverest persons in the office. Often, the attorney's success may be in large part thanks to the secretary. Many times, the attorney is simply the more egotistical of the firm's personnel, and hence has pushed himself to obtain a bar license, while the secretary has the confidence to succeed by her smarts.
The legal profession everywhere is famous for being technophobic. However, because of the internet, firms that have embraced technology have taken a clear leap compared to those who 'love paper.' We are entering an era of super firms, and we are only just at the beginning.
Just as the best policy, as explained under Stratification, is to empower the best person to do the job most suited to their abilities, the best policy is to utilize technology for any job that can be best done by technology. Whether by an individual or equipment, tasks should be performed by the most efficient person or thing. This minimizes expense to the client, and improves quality of life on the job.
Managing v. Counseling
Another important distinction is legal skills and management skills. A fundamental misconception of law firms in Japan that has severely handicapped competition with foreign firms is the lack of appreciation of the importance of compartmentalization of law firm administration. Many Japanese GP attorneys seem to think that the best jurist should manage the firm, and provide customer care.
Usually the best legal mind is the last person you want managing the firm, or being responsible for monitoring client satisfaction. To maximize value to the firm, the best legal minds should devote as much time as possible to legal issues, not office administration. The law firm managing director is responsible for maximizing the client's goals, the firm's goals, and the firm's legal experts' advice.
Growing a firm
Most successful non-Japanese firms have grown because of good management skills. Legal skills are important, but there are plenty of legal practitioners with incredible legal skills who have not made the impression on the legal profession that they could have if they had been a part of a team with good management skills. Management skills enable legal minds to practice law, but as a rule the practitioners with first class management skills are not the practitioners with first class legal skills. World class legal practitioners managing a law firm build a forum where world class jurisprudential practitioners can do brilliant work, and that is when firms grow.
One focus of OLO is to get the job done in the simplest manner possible. Successful firms minimize billing time per matter to maximize billing time per client. If a firm handles a matter more efficiently than the client could have done so itself, the client will bring more matters to the firm.
Minimizing hours billed per matter maximizes value to the client. This breeds return and referred business and more quality billing time. For instance, although an attorney may be able to bill a horde of hours on a translation project, which means great revenue this week, month, or year, this is not a revenue stream or an ethical model that provides a healthy structure for an industry, nor does this provide client value.
Level Playing Field
Of paramount importance at OLO is the ability of professionals to implement the mindset of the very best in the legal field. Unfair bias based on gender, caste, sexual orientation, race, age, ethnicity, religion or lack thereof, physical or intellectual disability or language will not be tolerated when practiced against clients, employees or anyone. Anywhere. Ever.
Providing the best possible counsel to the client must be the goal of every individual of the firm. For instance, when approached by a prospective client there is no place in the proper practice of law for determining representation based on evaluating the guilt or innocence of the client. That is the purview of the judge, and the defending attorney's job as counsel is to make the client's case in the best manner possible according to the client's instructions, and the rules, ethics and morals of the legal profession.i? 1/4
Legal Ethics is not an Oxymoron
Legal professionals dedicated to the advancement of the legal profession must put ethical and moral values at the forefront of their conduct. This does not mean avoiding grey areas. Indeed, advancing the cause of our clients and profession means pushing the envelope so that while what a legal professional may be advocating in a particular case is a legally uncertain course of action, some years down the road, perhaps thanks to that professional's efforts, such grey area becomes not only precedent, but soon surpassed to be replaced by new precedent.
One self-defeating characteristic of the traditional law firm structure in Japan is that clients are the property of the attorney who brought them to the firm. The clients of OLO are not 'owned' by the personnel that brings the client to OLO. The client is OLO's client, and client satisfaction is the responsibility of every individual associated with OLO.
If the professional who brought the client to a law firm is the same professional that handles the matter, the law firm's best salesperson may be handling the matter instead of the law firm's best legal expert. To ensure generational, world class service the personnel who works on the matter at OLO is the most able, regardless of which OLO personnel found the client. Accordingly, revenue comes into OLO as a whole, not to any individual in OLO, and is distributed by a firm-wide allocation method. OLO acts as one for long-term growth, and to provide top-tier quality.
Large, successful firms are legacies. Clientele is built up over generations. In Japan, when the attorney retires, clients must often find another attorney, who is usually at a different firm.
Firms cannot grow if clients move from firm to firm. Moreover, this interruption in service causes the client to have to start over from the beginning, sometimes in the middle of a matter. Clients suffer because their matters are not handled consistently over the decades or even centuries that customers are maintained with legacy enterprises. Consistency irrespective of a client's personal relationship with a given attorney is increasingly important as global commercial enterprises become ever larger and depersonalized.
Mission: true internationalization from the ground up . . . virtually
The goal of this venture is not to make a Japanese legal practice that operates in English, but to make a truly international practice that operates in any language. To enable Japanese individuals, companies, entities, and society to compete with foreign clients who employ the best law firms, Japan must have truly competitive Japanese law firms. There is no shortage of "international" law firms in Japan. However, an international legal practice is not simply an entity that has a foreign sounding name, the word "international" in the name, or employs a foreigner as window dressing. Much more is required to make a legal practice: "international."
A law firm that simply uses foreign attorneys to facilitate communication between the Japanese legal professionals and the foreign client is the antithesis of an international law firm. By limiting foreign attorneys to the role of mouthpiece, parochial operating methods are simply perpetuated, and true internationalization is subverted. A real international practice will integrate the best methods of the legal profession regardless of the origin of the methods, hence the name Origin Law Offices. An international practice will integrate the foreigner into management and administration to advance a customer's interests by helping the firm understand exactly:
What the customer wants and expects;
Why the customer wants and expects the legal professional to provide a particular service;
Carry out the customer's wishes within legal, moral and ethical boundaries; and,
Determine the best practices for doing so.
What we do
Origin Law Offices (OLO) provides virtual legal services. Legal practitioners, which includes virtual support staff, are focused on providing you service:
Paperless whenever possible;
To do so, we have a virtual law office platform encrypted with SSL so clients, legal professionals and support staff can collaborate online. An online legal practice is particularly useful when dealing in a time zone quite literally on the opposite side of the world.
OLO knows the Japan legal market, and we know when you can cut corners, and, just as importantly, when you cannot cut corners. We know what you expect in customer service, and we know where to look for a specialist if OLO cannot provide you the service in-house. Our Japanese skills enable you to select the best Japanese legal professional, rather than forcing you to settle for a second-rate professional who speaks English.
OLO endeavors to provide you the most rationally structured law firm. We are constantly striving to find the most logical way for work flow, office organization, and customer service. We study not only cutting-edge technologies, but also cutting-edge law firm management and structuring techniques.
Consequently, OLO's best legal expert for your matter will handle your case instead of OLO's best salesperson. Also, OLO's best manager will be orchestrating OLO's best legal experts to give you the counsel you need. You will see the cost-savings in your legal bills, and you will see the results in better legal advice.
Why we're different
To explain the sort of customer service that is the goal of Origin Law Offices (OLO), another non-legal industry analogy may be illustrative. When buying a suit of clothes, if a customer approaches a tailor, the customer expects the tailor to provide the best clothing the tailor can make. Customers do not wish to be told: 'This is how we make clothes in this country, and if you don't like it, you can go to another country.'
A new suit of clothes
The clothing industry may think they are maintaining high standards when they tell customers how customers will be best served, but the reality is the service providers are:
Preventing customers from enjoying the best clothing their country has to offer; and,
Rendering the tailors in that country incapable of competing in the global industry.
In the case of the Japanese legal industry, free-trade restrictions on internationalized law firms in Japan result in a Japanese legal industry that cannot compete when Japanese attorneys go abroad because the domestic industry players in Japan have no practice with true competition at home. This is particularly true outside the Tokyo metropolitan area, because Tokyo is the home to every foreign law firm in Japan. Outside of Tokyo, clients will have even more difficulty explaining what they want to Japanese legal practitioners, and receiving what they expect.
Welcome to Tokyo . . . when are you leaving?
Such obstacles to competition, parochial in today's world, are exemplified by differentiated office protocol for Japanese and foreign legal practitioners, which does not use consistent forms of address with regard to family names or the title: sensei. A less esoteric example are the restrictions prohibiting foreign registered attorneys from setting up branch offices in Japan, effectively preventing foreign law firms from competing here on an equal footing. The result is that instead of creating great, competitive Japanese attorneys at home, and a market for Japanese attorneys all over the world--much like Japanese camera or electrical manufacturers have created a market for Japanese products--the Japanese legal industry maintains antiquated, petty barriers that would attempt to keep foreign attorneys at (Tokyo?) bay.
Not for the Japanese
The Japanese Bars and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations might think they are being clever i? 1/4 by fulfilling the letter but not the spirit of the minimal requirements vis-a-vis reciprocal recognition of Japanese attorneys in foreign jurisdictions. However, the truly disadvantaged parties in this arrangement are Japan, and the Japanese. Just as the hypothetical national clothing industry discussed above effectively refuses to compete, and does their industry and their country great disservice, the Japanese legal industry is hampering efforts at true global recognition of Japan's abilities. The hypothetical tailors do not provide customers the best their hypothetical country has to offer, and the Japanese legal industry does not provide legal services consumers the best ministrations to project the best Japan has to offer.
For the Japanese
If Japan wishes to be respected on the international stage, the Japanese must abide by their own rules of etiquette. Legal practitioners licensed in a foreign jurisdiction, or foreign nationals in Japan are guests. As such, they are part of the out group as defined by Japanese linguistic conventions. According to Japanese tradition, members of an out group should be treated with more courtesy, in letter and spirit, than Japanese treat members of their in group.
Moreover, the out group and in group distinctions must be consistently applied across Japanese legal certifications. For instance, professionals who are licensed by different Japan licensing authorities must be addressed as if they are out group. For example, the petty practice of general practice attorneys refusing to address other legal practitioners in Japan as sensei is embarrassing, and hampering cooperative legal services.
Additional resources provided by the author
The Japanese legal industry's self-preservation instinct regarding foreign legal competition is outmoded. These habits are ultimately to the detriment of furthering Japanese industry and culture. One goal of OLO is to improve the legal industry in Japan, and thereby promote Japanese industry and culture.
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