E N F O R C E M E N T   AND   C O M P L I A N C E

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What is this Agreement and what does it do?

Who benefits from this Agreement?

How can I use this Agreement?

Can the U.S. Government help me if I have a problem?

How can I get more information?

What is this Agreement and what does it do?

The U.S.-Japan Agreement on Foreign Lawyers enables American lawyers to establish offices and provide legal counsel in Japan as foreign legal consultants.

The Agreement, consisting of an exchange of letters between the Japanese Ambassador and the Office of the United States Trade Representative, became effective on April 1, 1987. It has no expiration date.

In April 2005 the Government of Japan (GOJ) lifted restrictions to allow foreign lawyers to practice law jointly with Japanese lawyers. Previously foreign lawyers had very limited ability to practice in Japan. This stunning change came about in response to goals set by the GOJ in 2001 to reform its justice system, and in response to new business practices as a result of globalization. The shift signalled a new era of openness to foreign investors by the GOJ and was a critical step forward. This article from the Japan External Trade Organization's (JETRO) Japan Economic Monthly highlights the regulatory change and gives a general background on other legislative moves to improved legal services. For more information about JETRO, please go to:

Who benefits from this Agreement?

This Agreement benefits American law firms and attorneys who want to provide legal services in Japan. It can also benefit U.S. and other foreign companies in Japan, and U.S. companies interested in exporting to Japan, by enabling them to seek legal advice from American lawyers who are established in Japan.

How can I use this Agreement?

The right of American attorneys (licensed to practice law in any U.S. jurisdiction) to become foreign legal consultants in Japan is subject to the Japanese "Special Measures Law Concerning the Handling of Legal Business by Foreign Lawyers", Law No. 66 of 1986, as amended. This Law sets out provisions relating to, among other things, the scope of practice of foreign legal consultants, the qualifications of foreign legal consultants, the process for registering as a foreign legal consultant, the rights and duties of foreign legal consultants and the supervision of foreign legal consultants. Additional requirements are set out in Ministry of Justice ordinances and other measures, as well as in the rules of Japan's Federation of Bar Associations.

To become a foreign legal consultant in Japan, an attorney must have three years of experience (the Agreement originally stipulated five) as a practicing attorney (experience in a law firm, corporate legal department, or federal, state or local government is permissible) in his/her home jurisdictions (or, since 1998, in a third country), and must submit the required documentation.

Subsequent to the Agreement, and in response to U.S. requests, Japan has liberalized several of the restrictions on foreign lawyers, including:

allowing foreign lawyers to represent parties in international arbitrations in Japan;

reducing the experience required to register as a foreign legal consultant from five years to three years;

allowing foreign lawyers to count the time spent practicing the law of the lawyer's home jurisdiction in a third country toward meeting the three-year experience requirement (however, only one year of experience in Japan will count toward the three-year requirement);

liberalizing the ability of foreign legal consultants to practice third-country law with written advice from a Japanese lawyer or a foreign lawyer qualified in that third country; and

reducing the restrictions on the use of law firm names.

"In April 2005 Japan's Ministry of Justice lifted restrictions that previously limited the practices of foreign firms and is now allowing them to hire Japanese lawyers as partners or even merge with Japanese law firms. This was a major breakthrough for U.S. industry considering foreign firms were not allowed to practice in Japan prior to 1987.

For more information on how to register as a foreign legal consultant in Japan, you can contact the web site (offsite link) of the Japanese Ministry of Justice. You can also view an English-language translation of the Japan Federation of Bar Association Guide to Rules for Foreign Special Members (February 2005).

Can the U.S. Government help me if I have a problem?

Yes. If you experience difficulties operating under the terms of this Agreement, contact the Trade Agreements Negotiation and Compliance hotline at the U.S. Department of Commerce. The U.S. Government is available to provide information and assistance to attorneys and law firms that believe they have been harmed by the Japanese government's noncompliance with this Agreement.

How can I get more information?

The complete text of the U.S. - Japan Agreement on Foreign Lawyers is available from the Office of Trade Agreements Negotiations and Compliance's web site.

For additional information, you can e-mail the Trade Agreements Negotiation and Compliance at the U.S. Department of Commerce, which will ensure that your questions are answered by the appropriate experts. Or you can address your questions directly to:

Office of Supply Chain, Professional and Business Services

Industry and Analysis

U.S. Department of Commerce

14th Street & Constitution Avenue, N.W.

Washington, D.C. 20230

Tel: (202) 482-4781

Fax: (202) 482-2669

TANC offers these agreements electronically as a public service for general reference. Every effort has been made to ensure that the text presented is complete and accurate. However, copies needed for legal purposes should be obtained from official archives maintained by the appropriate agency.