A Japanese lawyer, who I have introduced to a number of foreigners with various legal queries over the years, has come up with (what I feel to be) a proposal that may : “How do I start a legal practice to act for foreigners living in Japan?”
By way of introduction, this lawyer currently works at a mid-size Japanese firm in central Tokyo doing a broad range of civil, commercial and family law. The lawyer has many friends who are foreigners, and is aware that a number of them have had issues in the past with irresponsible and irresponsive lawyers, and sympathetic with the opacity of Japan’s legal system that many foreigners may not understand. The lawyer genuinely wants to make Japan an easier place to live for non-natives.
My intial reaction is… build it and they will come! But thinking about it, I have a number of questions and concerns:
- Surely there is the need for this practice—there are large numbers of foreigners who are confused by Japan, the legal system, the bureaucracy, and the way things work, and who face difficulties in resolving disputes and navigating processes. I am concerned that there may not be a market, in that the individuals clients will be unable or unwilling to pay for the services.
- How should the practice be publicized? Should there be a website to get out the word?
- Would the practice be enough to sustain be done as an independent operation, or while at a law firm with other lawyers?
- Are there areas that the lawyer should seek to specialize, or areas to avoid? I would be interested in the ratio of work that the lawyer gets, and what ratio would be contract disputes, negotiating and litigating divorce and family law matters, criminal defense, immigration, etc.
As this proposal is still at the brainstorming level, I’d be curious to hear the MF community weigh in advice as to how to proceed.