working in Japan

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abiglawyer

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working in Japan

Post by abiglawyer » Wed Apr 07, 2021 2:07 pm

has anyone had experience working as an American attorney in Japan? there are a few firms there with positions for foreign attorneys working in English. any first- or second-hand information about work-life balance, compensation and the application process would be hugely appreciated.

thanks.

RokosBasilisk2049

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Re: working in Japan

Post by RokosBasilisk2049 » Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:59 pm

Just rattling off here-

-For international law firms, I believe compensation in Japan is quite good because the COLA is high. IIRC, Japanese tax law allows firms to deduct housing expenses with a pretty high cap, and so firms (at least in the past, not sure now) could provide for a nice apartment as part of the COLA. This meant that, unlike some other areas abroad, the after-tax compensation with the COLA was quite a bit above NYC market. In the past, COLA could be up to 130K above NYC base, but I have no idea what it is now, expat packages have been shrinking/disappearing lately.

-Most firms require Japanese proficiency, which means being able to work in the language. Not all do though, because I believe IIRC MoFo will hire associates who do not speak Japanese to start in the Japan office. You likely need to articulate a good reason for being in Japan though, and from what I have heard the MoFo Tokyo office has a really hellish culture

-Most firms have smaller offices with no real summer program or established training procedures, and so it's less common to be hired straight out of law school. When I interviewed with some firms in Japan, they just straight up said that they do not hire associates out of law school but would give priority to past interns after a few years in the workforce.

-If you're not working for the international law firms, compensation drops off quite a bit. Not sure how much, it likely varies from firm to firm.

-Japan, like other areas in Asia, has a pretty unhealthy work culture so regardless of what firm you choose be prepared to work insane hours.

abiglawyer

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Re: working in Japan

Post by abiglawyer » Wed Apr 07, 2021 4:20 pm

RokosBasilisk2049 wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 3:59 pm
Just rattling off here-

-For international law firms, I believe compensation in Japan is quite good because the COLA is high. IIRC, Japanese tax law allows firms to deduct housing expenses with a pretty high cap, and so firms (at least in the past, not sure now) could provide for a nice apartment as part of the COLA. This meant that, unlike some other areas abroad, the after-tax compensation with the COLA was quite a bit above NYC market. In the past, COLA could be up to 130K above NYC base, but I have no idea what it is now, expat packages have been shrinking/disappearing lately.

-Most firms require Japanese proficiency, which means being able to work in the language. Not all do though, because I believe IIRC MoFo will hire associates who do not speak Japanese to start in the Japan office. You likely need to articulate a good reason for being in Japan though, and from what I have heard the MoFo Tokyo office has a really hellish culture

-Most firms have smaller offices with no real summer program or established training procedures, and so it's less common to be hired straight out of law school. When I interviewed with some firms in Japan, they just straight up said that they do not hire associates out of law school but would give priority to past interns after a few years in the workforce.

-If you're not working for the international law firms, compensation drops off quite a bit. Not sure how much, it likely varies from firm to firm.

-Japan, like other areas in Asia, has a pretty unhealthy work culture so regardless of what firm you choose be prepared to work insane hours.
thanks for your response. what about Mofo Tokyo is hellish, just the work-life balance? I've seen stuff about "foreign legal associate" and "professional support lawyer" positions at some Japanese firms. do you know anything about these?

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Apr 07, 2021 8:53 pm

As someone from East Asia who has immediate family members working white collar jobs, I never, ever, ever want to work in Japan.

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Anonymous User » Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:34 pm

As someone who lateraled last year to the Seoul office of a US firm after working in New York for 4 years, I can confirm that hours and work-life balance are no better in Asia than in NYC. I work frequently with the Tokyo office of my firm and can confirm that hours and culture are worse there. The greater the number of Japanese lawyers in a Tokyo office, the worse it is for the associates. My firm's Tokyo office has quite a large number of Japanese lawyers. In the Tokyo office, they work too much and think it's completely normal to work too much with little personal time. It all has to do with the exploitative and hierarchical work culture in the country generally. People are brought up to think that's normal. I have some friends who worked for years at local Japanese firms, and I know for a fact that it's incomparably worse at local Japanese firms. Things are a little better in Seoul due to a more progressive culture here, but then hours at local firms here are terrible too I've heard.

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Anonymous User
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Joined: Tue Aug 11, 2009 9:32 am

Re: working in Japan

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:21 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:34 pm
As someone who lateraled last year to the Seoul office of a US firm after working in New York for 4 years, I can confirm that hours and work-life balance are no better in Asia than in NYC. I work frequently with the Tokyo office of my firm and can confirm that hours and culture are worse there. The greater the number of Japanese lawyers in a Tokyo office, the worse it is for the associates. My firm's Tokyo office has quite a large number of Japanese lawyers. In the Tokyo office, they work too much and think it's completely normal to work too much with little personal time. It all has to do with the exploitative and hierarchical work culture in the country generally. People are brought up to think that's normal. I have some friends who worked for years at local Japanese firms, and I know for a fact that it's incomparably worse at local Japanese firms. Things are a little better in Seoul due to a more progressive culture here, but then hours at local firms here are terrible too I've heard.
Can speak to at least some largest local Japanese law firms, where people find going home everyday at or after 3am completely normal. International firms should be better but not sure how much. Also interested in working in Japan b/c the culture and food, although hesitating.

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Arca9

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Arca9 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:22 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:34 pm
As someone who lateraled last year to the Seoul office of a US firm after working in New York for 4 years, I can confirm that hours and work-life balance are no better in Asia than in NYC. I work frequently with the Tokyo office of my firm and can confirm that hours and culture are worse there. The greater the number of Japanese lawyers in a Tokyo office, the worse it is for the associates. My firm's Tokyo office has quite a large number of Japanese lawyers. In the Tokyo office, they work too much and think it's completely normal to work too much with little personal time. It all has to do with the exploitative and hierarchical work culture in the country generally. People are brought up to think that's normal. I have some friends who worked for years at local Japanese firms, and I know for a fact that it's incomparably worse at local Japanese firms. Things are a little better in Seoul due to a more progressive culture here, but then hours at local firms here are terrible too I've heard.

Can I PM you with questions about working in Seoul?

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Apr 08, 2021 10:29 am

Current associate in Japan. Clients and Japanese law firms are definitely slammed in terms of hours, but I don’t think the hours at the international firms are any worse than what you might find in New York. COLA stipends are also still a thing, and are still rather high as far as I know, so you are bringing home a lot more than your peers for similar (if not less) hours. Recruitment is much less structured than US offices, so you will probably need to reach out directly to the office to apply (though this isn’t the case with MoFo, which is large enough to have its own recruitment staff).

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:33 pm

Arca9 wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:22 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:34 pm
As someone who lateraled last year to the Seoul office of a US firm after working in New York for 4 years, I can confirm that hours and work-life balance are no better in Asia than in NYC. I work frequently with the Tokyo office of my firm and can confirm that hours and culture are worse there. The greater the number of Japanese lawyers in a Tokyo office, the worse it is for the associates. My firm's Tokyo office has quite a large number of Japanese lawyers. In the Tokyo office, they work too much and think it's completely normal to work too much with little personal time. It all has to do with the exploitative and hierarchical work culture in the country generally. People are brought up to think that's normal. I have some friends who worked for years at local Japanese firms, and I know for a fact that it's incomparably worse at local Japanese firms. Things are a little better in Seoul due to a more progressive culture here, but then hours at local firms here are terrible too I've heard.

Can I PM you with questions about working in Seoul?
Sure. Feel free to PM me.

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Arca9

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Re: working in Japan

Post by Arca9 » Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:53 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:33 pm
Arca9 wrote:
Thu Apr 08, 2021 9:22 am
Anonymous User wrote:
Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:34 pm
As someone who lateraled last year to the Seoul office of a US firm after working in New York for 4 years, I can confirm that hours and work-life balance are no better in Asia than in NYC. I work frequently with the Tokyo office of my firm and can confirm that hours and culture are worse there. The greater the number of Japanese lawyers in a Tokyo office, the worse it is for the associates. My firm's Tokyo office has quite a large number of Japanese lawyers. In the Tokyo office, they work too much and think it's completely normal to work too much with little personal time. It all has to do with the exploitative and hierarchical work culture in the country generally. People are brought up to think that's normal. I have some friends who worked for years at local Japanese firms, and I know for a fact that it's incomparably worse at local Japanese firms. Things are a little better in Seoul due to a more progressive culture here, but then hours at local firms here are terrible too I've heard.

Can I PM you with questions about working in Seoul?
Sure. Feel free to PM me.
Oh lol, sorry, can you actually PM me since you're anon?

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