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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Calls mount for restrictions on foreign lawyers to be eased


Staff writer

A statute on foreign lawyers in Japan should be amended to allow them to practice law on an equal footing with Japanese attorneys, a legal expert said Wednesday.

The Cabinet on Tuesday agreed to revise the Special Measures Law Concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers, which would enable lawyers with foreign qualifications to set up offices in Japan as incorporated bodies.

The bill is expected to clear the Diet during the current session, which ends in June.

"This will enable them to practice law the same way as a lawyer who becomes qualified in Japan," Yumiko Ichige, a lawyer and deputy secretary general of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, told The Japan Times on Wednesday. "They will be able to open a branch office in other locations," including smaller cities, Ichige explained.

Up until now, lawyers with foreign qualifications could only open a single private office in the country, making it impossible to broaden their domestic practice. At times, this made it difficult for companies operating in regional cities to receive legal counsel related to doing business overseas.

But allowing foreign lawyers to set up their own incorporated bodies will make it possible for them to solicit funding and provide services in regional municipalities.

While increasing the scope of foreign lawyers' activities, the amendment will still require them to register with the JFBA and to comply with domestic rules.

Lawyers with foreign qualifications must fulfill certain requirements to register with the JFBA, and must have worked as attorneys for more than three years in their home countries.



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The Japan Times

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