The EBC is delighted to hear of prospective changes in the laws of Japan in respect of the work experience requirement for foreign-qualified lawyers to register as gaikokuho-jimu-bengoshi (foreign-qualified lawyers or “gaiben”). Currently three years of work experience is required, out of which two years have to come from experience gained overseas. The Ministry of Justice’s Review Committee for the Registered Foreign Lawyers System proposed that the overseas experience element is reduced from two years to one year, as well as the ability of gaiben and bengoshi to establish a corporation together, subject to the implementation of the change in the law.
1. Further to deliberations by the above mentioned Committee which took place throughout 2015 and culminating in a Report being issued on 5 July 2016, we understand that the following changes to the Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers (Act No. 66 of 23 May 1986) (the “Act”) were firmly on the agenda for the Diet parliamentary session in the Spring of 2020. We understand that the Upper House approved the draft changes to the Act, and that deliberations have taken place in the Lower House, after which time the Upper House formally approved the changes on 22 May 2020 and thereby the changes are now enacted into law. Once enacted, we understand that it will be a matter of a few months before the changes to the Act are implemented. We await confirmation that the changes to the Act have been implemented by no later than September 2020.
1.1 The current three-year work experience requirement (two years of which must be experience gained outside Japan) will be changed to three years (one year of which must be experience gained outside Japan).
1.2 It will become permissible under law for gaiben and bengoshi to establish a hojin (corporation) together.
1.3 The scope of “international arbitration cases” under the Act will be clarified so that gaiben will be able to be involved in such cases. For example, (1) the condition that an “international arbitration case” must have Japan as its chosen arbitration venue, as well as (2) the condition that the case must involve at least one party whose main business location or head office is overseas is due to be changed to (1) the chosen venue of arbitration does not need to be Japan, and (2) the majority of the shares or voting rights of at least one of the parties are held by an entity or individual whose address is overseas.
2. Transparency of the gaiben registration system and making the registration process simpler: We would welcome any updates from the forum which has been set up for discussions between the Ministry of Justice and the Nichibenren, taking into account opinions from registrants as necessary. This with a view to making the registration process and timing more transparent, simpler and faster.
The EBC welcomes the prospective changes to the law and implementation thereof to reflect the items in paragraphs 1.1, 1.2 and 1.3 above. Going forward, the EBC will continue to recommend that any requirement for work experience prior to registration as a gaiben should be abolished in their entirety. The EBC will continue to take a close interest in the roll-out of the recommendations as a whole, not least because the ultimate success will depend on the process being conducted fairly, with proper participation by foreign lawyers and due consideration given to the views of the foreign legal community.
Key issues and recommendations
Mr. Tony Andriotis
Partner, DLA Piper Tokyo Partnership
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