The JFBA is a federal body comprised of 52 local bar associations in Japan, individual attorneys, legal professional corporations, registered foreign lawyers (gaikokuho-jimu-bengoshi) and other members. Attorneys, legal professional corporations, and registered foreign lawyers should register with the JFBA at the same time when they are admitted to local bar associations. Therefore, all attorneys, legal professional corporations, and registered foreign lawyers in Japan form the JFBA. It possesses a unique autonomy free from supervision by government agencies, and is the sole and supreme organization that guides, liaises with, and supervises all attorneys, legal professional corporations, registered foreign lawyers, and the 52 local bar associations, to maintain the dignity of and to improve and advance the administration of its members.
Local Bar Associations
Japan has 52 local bar associations, one for each of the 50 district court jurisdictions with the exception of Tokyo, where three bar associations existed before the promulgation of the Attorney Act. Local bar associations consist of attorneys, legal professional corporations, and registered foreign lawyers.
The 52 local bar associations also have the authority to guide, supervise and liaise with their member attorneys, legal professional corporations and registered foreign lawyers (however, with regard to the registered foreign lawyers, the registration, screening of qualifications, and disciplinary actions shall be performed by the JFBA), and their authority overlaps with JFBA's authority in this respect. However, it is understood that the local bar associations should, in the first place, guide, liaise with, and supervise their members, and that the JFBA will directly guide, liaise with, and supervise in case the local bar associations do not guide, liaise with, or supervise, or where it is deemed inappropriate for them to do so. In addition, the JFBA is to guide, liaise with, and supervise the 52 local bar associations, and as a particular example, the JFBA is to approve the establishment and amendment of the rules of local bar associations, to receive reports on the resolutions of the General Meetings of the local bar associations, and to nullify resolutions of the General Meetings where they harm the public interest.
As a self-regulatory organization, the JFBA provides guidance, liaison, and supervision through its activities such as the registration, screening of qualifications, and disciplinary actions against the attorneys, legal professional corporations and registered foreign lawyers. In addition, the JFBA is performing a significant role related to important issues such as the redressing of human rights abuses and the improvement and reform of the justice system, by vigorously committing to various activities related to the protection of human rights; research and submission of opinions concerning revision of various laws; participation in providing relief to consumers and a commitment to issues concerning pollution and the environment; improvement of criminal procedures; and a judicial reform movement to open the justice system to citizens.
Any person qualified to practice law in Japan becomes an attorney as well as a member of the JFBA by being listed on the JFBA's Roster of Attorneys through the bar association to which she/he chooses to belong.
Legal Professional Corporations
Since April 2002, attorneys have been allowed to form corporations (legal professional corporations) for the purpose of engaging in legal practice. Upon incorporation, the legal professional corporation becomes a member of the local bar association of the district in which the office is established as well as a member of the JFBA. The system of legal professional corporations aims to enable attorneys to provide a variety of highly specialized legal services in a stable manner and to continue providing services for clients as a corporation by means of corporate organizations. Legal professional corporations may establish branch offices.
Registered Foreign Lawyers (Gaikokuho Jimu Bengoshi)
Registered Foreign Lawyers are those approved to engage in legal services in Japan related to the laws of the jurisdictions other than Japan where they are qualified to practice. They are required to have their names listed on the Roll of Registered Foreign Lawyers maintained by the JFBA with the approval of the Minister of Justice. This system was introduced by the Act on Special Measures concerning the Handling of Legal Services by Foreign Lawyers and the 1987 amendment of the JFBA's Articles of Association.
In addition, the JFBA also has, for historical reasons, "quasi-member" and "special member" categories for those who provide similar legal services as attorneys in specific fields or geographical areas.