The Ministry of Justice in Japan has approved changes to the registered foreign lawyer system, which will expand the scope of practice for lawyers working in Japan. The changes, which are intended to improve practice conditions and expand Japan’s international legal market, are focused around three main issues –

  1. The scope of ‘international arbitration case’ has been expanded, allowing for registered foreign lawyers to participate in a greater variety of international arbitration, including cases where all parties are Japanese, under certain conditions such as the governing law being non-Japanese law. Furthermore, a definition of ‘international mediation’ has been established, which registered foreign lawyers will be allowed to undertake.
  2. The work experience requirement to become a foreign law attorney under the current law is three years, with a maximum of one year of this being work experience that can be taken in Japan. Under the amendment this has been expanded to two years, meaning that attorneys can gain more of their qualifying experience in the market they hope to qualify into.
  3. Finally, the amendment will introduce a joint corporation system, which will allow Japanese lawyers and registered foreign lawyers to form joint corporations and employ each other within these corporations, creating a wider scope of practice for these firms.  This was previously forbidden.

See the text of the amendment (PDF), or the MOJ’s press release for the changes.