Doing legal business in Japan

Japan is the high-tech powerhouse economy of Asia and the third largest economy in the world. It’s considered a competitive and stable business market with an increasingly globalised outlook.

Japan is the second largest computer and telecommunications market in the world. It’s ranked among the world’s most innovative countries.

Practising in Japan

Lawyers in Japan are called bengoshi. Non-Japanese lawyers who have permission to practise law in Japan are known as gaikokuho jimu bengoshi – ‘foreign-law office bengoshi’ – or gaiben for short.

Gaiben can only give advice on the law of their home jurisdiction. They cannot draft legal documents or represent Japanese clients in intrastate or probate matters without the assistance of a qualified bengoshi.

Gaiben can represent clients in private arbitration but not in courtroom litigation. As a result, most gaiben are generally involved in intermediating between foreign clients and Japanese lawyers or in assisting Japanese clients with foreign legal matters.

To become a gaiben, you must have at least three years of post-qualification experience practising law. One year may be spent working in Japan, but at least two years must be outside of Japan.

In May 2020, a bill to amend the Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers was passed in the Japanese parliament. It will come into effect later this year.

These amendments will allow foreign lawyers to register as gaiben with only one year’s experience gained outside of Japan (three in total).

The bill will also allow the opening of subsequent branches for foreign law firms, and clarify further certain aspects of international arbitration in Japan.

We've been strongly supportive of the passage of this bill.

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