Working in Japan

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Working in Japan

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:14 pm

I'm a West Coast corporate junior. My wife recently got an offer to transfer to Tokyo. This is an amazing move for her, huge boost to her career and earnings (even in comparison to BL salary). Part of her offer includes me as a spouse and housing. Just an amazing opportunity all around. We've also always wanted to live abroad for a few years, and this position would be 2-3 years.

Problem is, neither of us speaks Japanese. It's fine for her, her job knows this, but am I right in thinking I'm boned? I honestly don't know what I could do, though it's nice not to worry about being sponsored. I've sent some feelers out to the BL offices in Tokyo and get the impression they aren't hiring Americans, and if they do, they're internal transfers. Anybody have any insight? Do I just become an English teacher?

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jkpolk

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby jkpolk » Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:17 pm

Your chances of singing karaoke with Bill Murray will skyrocket

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emkay625

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby emkay625 » Wed Jul 12, 2017 5:23 pm

I think I would focus instead on finding a position with a U.S. firm that permitted remote work. I would start by approaching your current firm. See if there's any way they'd fashion a part-time, remote position for you, with the understanding that you're coming back in 2-3 years.

favabeansoup

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby favabeansoup » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:28 pm

Might be pretty tough.

I know some of the bigger American presences like MoFo held part of their interviews in Japanese, or at least that is what some friends told me who got interviews there.

I would also figure out your visa details. Could you move their and work only on your spouse's visa? It might encourage some firms to give you a chance if they know your circumstances on how you're already moving there vs dead resume drops.

Probably going to be tough though. I'm not sure how big the US qualified attorney market is outside of MoFo and lik one or two other places.

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 12, 2017 6:59 pm

favabeansoup wrote:Might be pretty tough.

I know some of the bigger American presences like MoFo held part of their interviews in Japanese, or at least that is what some friends told me who got interviews there.

I would also figure out your visa details. Could you move their and work only on your spouse's visa? It might encourage some firms to give you a chance if they know your circumstances on how you're already moving there vs dead resume drops.

Probably going to be tough though. I'm not sure how big the US qualified attorney market is outside of MoFo and lik one or two other places.


It's not 100% finalized, but yes, I would be fine on my wife's visa. Thankfully, I don't need to clear that hurdle. Interestingly, I know some people that work in other counties in Asia but don't speak the language, in both legal and business capacities, but Japan seems to require Japanese across the board.

HellfirePeninsula

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby HellfirePeninsula » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:12 pm

Would you consider looking into Korea or China? Still long distance, but a 3-hour, $300 flight instead of a 12-hour, $1,000 flight.

navylawhopeful

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby navylawhopeful » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:33 pm

If what you're looking for is Biglaw this will be unhelpful, but I'd recommend looking to see if the DoD hires civilian lawyers at any of the many military bases around the Tokyo area. The American Embassy may be another place to look into. I was stationed in Japan for two years and absolutely loved the country and the people.

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby Anonymous User » Wed Jul 12, 2017 8:55 pm

What's your specialty? That will matter to some firms.

Some US firms don't require Japanese but it's extremely rare. Like one of the posters said above, MoFo almost exclusively hires people who speak the language, and so does Jones Day (I think these two are the biggest). Others are small satellite offices, or firms with just a couple of US partners mostly with Japanese lawyers - bengoshi (Baker & McKenzie). Some depend primarily on one or two hedge fund / private equity clients with presence in Japan. Those firms tend to have really small number of lawyers (i.e. Ropes & Gray). I think you might actually have a chance with the satellite offices with almost exclusively US client base, but idk if they generate enough $ to take an extra lateral associate. I'd directly send emails to partners of Tokyo offices, explain your situation (wife moving, etc) and show serious commitment being in Japan quasi-long-term. They do care about flight risk.

Local firms, you will likely be a glorified translator - which of course, require Japanese. Most in-house positions, be it US or Japanese firms, require Japanese (Google, Amazon, Mitsui, etc). Maybe look into Big 4 Accounting firms? (They are trying to expand "legal"). Maybe look into Osaka local firms, 'cause Tokyo has a lot of US lawyers, but Osaka doesn't and they might be willing to have a "foreigner" for marketing purposes. You could perhaps email some of them directly (oh-ebashi, kitahama, yodoyabashi) and explain your situation to see if they could take some benefit out of having you.

Like the suggestion by one of the posters above, China might be a good option because you could get something without speaking the language. Korea? Not so much. Too many US JDs with bilingual capabilities.

This thread might be helpful: viewtopic.php?t=191254

Hope you find something. Japan can be an interesting place to live for a few years, other than being treated a gaijin (foreigner) even after you think you have assimilated into the culture. But I guess that's true anywhere in the world anyway.

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 13, 2017 2:11 pm

I worked at MoFo Tokyo for 1 1/2 years. I had worked in Japan before starting law school and spoke basic to intermediate Japanese. MoFo Tokyo definitely hires people who do not speak any Japanese, and no US attorney works on Japanese language matters unless they are actually fluent (basically that ends up being the Japanese-American attorneys who are legitimately fluent). Other big law firms in Tokyo also recruit attorneys who do not speak Japanese, but do not have as large formal recruiting programs as MoFo. I knew several attorneys at big firms around town who spoke a bit of Japanese, but none of us were fluent. While it is definitely true that quite a few of the firms have only a few foreigners and the rest of the team are Bengoshi, that is not uniformly the case. In my opinion, the thing that is actually most important is your story for wanting to practice in Japan. I would take the time and use a recruiter who specializes in Japan placement (contact a recruiter based in Japan) and/or email the Tokyo office recruiter for each office that has a location in Tokyo.

As other posters have mentioned, you should also look at the big 4 Japanese firms. They usually have a number of foreign attorneys. I knew a few at those firms too, who again, did not speak anything close to fluent Japanese.

Hope this helps. Tokyo is an amazing city, and I hope to live there again if the legal biglaw gods will it to be a possibility.

Abbie Doobie

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Re: Working in Japan

Postby Abbie Doobie » Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:40 pm

Anonymous User wrote:Part of her offer includes me as a spouse


ive seen some pretty binding employment terms but damn, they r forcing her to make u her spouse?

Anonymous User
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Re: Working in Japan

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Jul 13, 2017 9:11 pm

Anonymous User wrote:What's your specialty? That will matter to some firms.

Some US firms don't require Japanese but it's extremely rare. Like one of the posters said above, MoFo almost exclusively hires people who speak the language, and so does Jones Day (I think these two are the biggest). Others are small satellite offices, or firms with just a couple of US partners mostly with Japanese lawyers - bengoshi (Baker & McKenzie). Some depend primarily on one or two hedge fund / private equity clients with presence in Japan. Those firms tend to have really small number of lawyers (i.e. Ropes & Gray). I think you might actually have a chance with the satellite offices with almost exclusively US client base, but idk if they generate enough $ to take an extra lateral associate. I'd directly send emails to partners of Tokyo offices, explain your situation (wife moving, etc) and show serious commitment being in Japan quasi-long-term. They do care about flight risk.

Local firms, you will likely be a glorified translator - which of course, require Japanese. Most in-house positions, be it US or Japanese firms, require Japanese (Google, Amazon, Mitsui, etc). Maybe look into Big 4 Accounting firms? (They are trying to expand "legal"). Maybe look into Osaka local firms, 'cause Tokyo has a lot of US lawyers, but Osaka doesn't and they might be willing to have a "foreigner" for marketing purposes. You could perhaps email some of them directly (oh-ebashi, kitahama, yodoyabashi) and explain your situation to see if they could take some benefit out of having you.

Like the suggestion by one of the posters above, China might be a good option because you could get something without speaking the language. Korea? Not so much. Too many US JDs with bilingual capabilities.

This thread might be helpful: viewtopic.php?t=191254

Hope you find something. Japan can be an interesting place to live for a few years, other than being treated a gaijin (foreigner) even after you think you have assimilated into the culture. But I guess that's true anywhere in the world anyway.


One of those bolded bilingual U.S. JDs working in Korea here. While the above anon's statement is generally correct for Korean Americans, as most Korean firms only use JDs to translate, if you're of a different ethnicity you can definitely find a job at a firm in Korea without speaking any Korean due to scarcity value.



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