Dear Justy Dog,
I’ve been going to school in Japan since HS. I speak Japanese fluently and think I have more value here than back home. I finally just arrived in Tokyo after years of trying to get back here and I can’t find a good law firm job. I don’t yet have my gaiben qualifications completed (I still need two years at home.) and it seems like firms are not so eager to hire non-gaibens. What should I do?
stay or go?, Akasaka
Dear Stay or Go,
If you want a career as a private practice attorney in Tokyo then you need to become gaiben eligible. It makes life easier and you will give yourself more options later. Law firms need their attorneys to be gaiben because the Japan Federation of Bar Associations has been vocal that all foreign attorneys be gaiben and it’s the law. That said, some firms hire first and second year lawyers without gaiben under the pretence that they don’t interact with clients so they are working within the law. Still, it’s s slippery slope as sooner or later you will need your gaiben but if staying in Tokyo is important to you then keep trying to find a job – timing is everything. And maybe try James & Paul at Just Legal, RUFF!-
As for “proper career advice” and nothing else, I would suggest getting 2 years at a firm’s HQ doing real grunt work and the hours. Then you could be setting yourself up nicely for a very good career in Tokyo as foreign firms in Tokyo are always happy to hear about experienced, bilingual and gaiben-eligible attorneys.
Why 2 years? To become gaiben eligible you need to satisfy two things. 1) You need to be an attorney of good standing in your home jurisdication and 2) you need three years experience practicing law in that jurisdiction. One of those 3 years could be in Tokyo, however, practicing under a partner from the same home jurisdiction. So, you can be back in Tokyo in 2 years …..
In the end, it’s up to you because it’s likely you will find work here if you want it. But if we are just focusing on a private practice career getting your gaiben sorted out at the start of your career will have numerous benefits and give you more options down the road.