Recognition and approval as a foreign lawyer in Japan

Legal Services
In order to become registered as a gaiben in Japan, a foreign lawyer must have three years of professional experience in his/her respective home law, of which two must have been obtained outside Japan. This rule is in stark contrast to the rules governing bengoshi who are not required to have any post-qualification experience before being recognised. The EBC believes that this practice is not only discriminatory, but also makes little sense, as foreign lawyers are already recognised by their jurisdiction of qualification. If there is to be such a rule, what is important is the experience in home jurisdiction law, not where it is practised. The procedure for admitting foreign lawyers as gaiben also still imposes undue costs on foreign firms and individuals. A streamlined application form has shortened the process, but the requirement for approvals from both the Ministry of Justice and committees at the Nichibenren and local bar associations inevitably gives rise to delays. After over 30 years of operation, the gaiben system needs a thorough overhaul. An overhaul of the system could resolve a number of the current frustrations.


  • The rule requiring a specific number of post-qualification years of experience should be abolished. At the very least, experience in home jurisdiction law should be recognised regardless of where it has been practised.
  • Continuing focus is needed on accelerating the application procedure for gaiben registration.
  • An overhaul of the existing system should be undertaken to enable changes such as the registration of firms, rather than individuals, which would do much to eliminate frustrations with the existing system.