Information for Registered foreign lawyer
The Registered Foreign Lawyer System
1. Requirements to Become a Registered Foreign Lawyer
In order for any person qualified as a lawyer in a foreign country to provide legal services in Japan, he or she needs to register as a registered foreign lawyer. First, approval from the Minister of Justice shall be obtained to be qualified as a registered foreign lawyer, for which certain conditions need to be fulfilled, such as three years of job experience, among other conditions. A person who has obtained such approval from the Minister of Justice may provide legal services as a registered foreign lawyer by registering as a foreign special member of the JFBA.
If the applicant for such registration with the JFBA belongs to an ABS (Alternative Business Structure), a type of law firm that allows non-lawyers to own or hold voting rights, the registration shall only be approved when such ABS is an MDP (Multi-Disciplinary Practice) type ABS, a type of ABS that allows non-lawyers to own or hold voting rights only if they are engaged in the services of the entity, which satisfies certain specified conditions.
2. Handling of Legal Services by a Registered Foreign Lawyer
A registered foreign lawyer is authorized to handle legal services concerning the laws of the state in which he or she obtained qualification as a lawyer (the state of primary qualification) or the laws of a specific state designated by the Minister of Justice (designated laws). Further, he or she may handle legal services concerning the laws of a third state if he or she receives written advice from a person satisfying certain conditions. He or she may act as a representative in the procedures of an international arbitration case for a related party.
A registered foreign lawyer may not handle certain legal services such as representation in the procedures before a public agency including the courts of Japan, even if such services are legal services concerning the laws of the state of primary qualification or designated laws.
Registered foreign lawyers may employ an attorney at law, but may not provide any business instruction to the attorney at law concerning legal services beyond the scope of their competence, as well as handling the same for themselves. Further, registered foreign lawyers may run a joint enterprise with an attorney at law for the purpose of providing legal services. However, they shall not be improperly involved in the handling of any legal services of such attorney at law with whom they run the joint enterprise or whom they employ, provided that those legal services are outside the scope of competence of the registered foreign lawyer.
3. Registered Foreign Lawyer Corporation
A registered foreign lawyer may establish a registered foreign lawyer corporation in accordance with the Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers. The members of a registered foreign lawyer corporation must be registered foreign lawyers.
4. Disciplinary Action against Registered Foreign Lawyers and Registered Foreign Lawyer Corporations
Registered foreign lawyers and registered foreign lawyer corporations shall be subject to disciplinary action in cases where they violate the Act on Special Measures or any of the provisions of the articles of association of the bar association to which they belong or of the JFBA pertaining to a registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation, or has caused damage to the good order or reputation of the bar association to which they belong or of the JFBA, or has behaved in such a manner as to impair their own dignity, whether in performing their professional duties or otherwise. The basic ethics of registered foreign lawyers are stipulated under the Basic Rules on the Duties of Registered Foreign Lawyers.
There are four types of disciplinary action against a registered foreign lawyer: (1) admonition; (2) suspension of practice for not more than two years; (3) order to withdraw from the bar association; and (4) disbarment. Details are provided for under the Rules on the Registered Foreign Lawyers Discipline Enforcement Committee and Disciplinary Discipline Enforcement Procedures and the Rules on the Registered Foreign Lawyers Disciplinary Actions Committee and Disciplinary Actions Procedures, and these are basically equivalent to the disciplinary procedures for attorneys at law.
Any person who believes that there are grounds for disciplining a registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation may request the JFBA to take disciplinary action through the bar association to which the registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation concerned belongs, with the statement of such grounds. The authority to take disciplinary action is given only to the JFBA. The bar association to which the registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation belongs to is not authorized to take disciplinary action. Although the respective bar associations are not given authority to take disciplinary action, they are allowed to be involved with the disciplinary procedures to the extent that they may investigate the grounds for disciplinary action at the Disciplinary Discipline Enforcement Committee established within such bar associations with respect to any registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation belonging thereto.
While a registered foreign lawyer or registered foreign lawyer corporation subjected to a disciplinary action may not file a complaint with the JFBA in regard to such action made pursuant to the Act on Special Measures, they may file suit with the Tokyo High Court for the rescission of such disciplinary action.
A Guide to Rules for Foreign Special Members (PDF:334KB)
(October 2005/Foreign Lawyers and International Legal Practice Committee)
* Please note that this Guide was prepared based on the information as of October 2005 and does not reflect the changes thereafter.