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More in-house legal jobs in Japan

Posted by: Laurence Simons 30/01/13

Japan is an amazing place. Without engaging in too much low-level orientalism, it's still fair to say that the Asian nation offers Western visitors a number of sights, sounds and experiences far removed from their own culture - oddly-flavoured Kit-Kats, weird robot toys and vending machines that sell almost everything, to name just a few things.

One major difference between Japan and its Western counterparts looks set to be changing, however, with a new report suggesting that in-house legal jobs are becoming a far bigger part of the country's litagatory landscape than they were a decade ago.

According to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, 770 lawyers are now working in corporate departments across the country, reports American Lawyer.

While this might seem like a relatively tiddly number of legal professionals in comparison to the well-oiled, heavily-staffed law departments seen in many major corporations across the globe, it must be taken in the context of Japanese legal culture.

When this survey was last conducted in 2001, only 64 such positions existed.

In-house lawyers still represent a tiny proportion of the country's overall pool of legal workers, but this report suggests that attitudes towards internal law could be shifting.

Yasushi Murofushi, president of the Japan In-House Lawyers Association, told the news provider that the biggest driver of this change is simply the fact that Japan is producing more qualified lawyers than ever before and needs to find somewhere to put them so they don't just sit around making things look cluttered.

Companies have cited the ability to hire knowledgeable professionals at a relatively low cost as one factor in the increasing popularity of in-house legal workers, while there can also be benefits for experienced lawyers who decide to make the switch to an in-house position.

Daisuke Watanabe suggested that his interest in outbound investment and dealing with international clients encouraged him to make the jump to in-house work - he is an employee of clothing firm Uniqlo.

The Japanese lawyer added that he has found working internally gives him the opportunity to work closely with the business team in shaping the company's overall direction, a trend that has been noted by general counsel across the globe as regulatory issues come to the forefront of planning.

Japan's status as a financial and technological hub has seen numerous international law firms invest in the country, with growth slowing down across many parts of Europe and the US.