Japan

The Law of Japanese Subway Pushers

What are the legal consequences of this?

A reader in Quora has published an absolutely amazing answer to the question “What is it like to work as a “pusher” in Tokyo’s subway system?” If you have, or if you have not, been a part of the human toothpaste tube that is the Tokyo train system, read about it here.

For my purposes, it’s a brilliant contrast between Japanese and common law legal cultures. Imagine police officers in three countries are sent into the subways to check for criminal behavior, and they see the events in the video above.

That’s an assault in Canada.

A person commits an assault when (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly …

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, the hypothetical police officer just watched an assault. No question. That’s not how Canadians treat people! Of course, a Canadian judge would be free to interpret how the Code applied to these circumstances.

That’s an assault in the United States.

New York Penal Law §120.00 A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when: 1. With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person;  or 2. He recklessly causes physical injury to another person …

New Yorkers are tough, and apparently don’t mind getting harmlessly pushed. But if the police officer asked around to find some injuries and evidence of injurious intent or recklessness on the part of Japan Railways (JR) toward the passengers, there’d be a crime. JR policy seems to be to solve every platform overflow problem by crushing people, so … that seems intentional. The Quora author reports that, “every ride, you hear about a couple people fainting from the heat/ lack of oxygen.” So there’s your injuries. (Assault in the 3rd degree is the least serious assault in N.Y. – just a misdemeanor.) As in Canada, an American judge would be free to interpret how the Penal Law applied in these circumstances.

In Japan?

Penal Code of Japan Article 204. A person who causes another to suffer injury shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen.
Penal Code of Japan Article 208.  When a person assaults another without injuring the other person, the person shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 300,000 yen, misdemeanor imprisonment without work or a petty fine.

In Japan, there’s just no specific definition of “assault” in the Penal Code, just penalties for whenever “assault” might happen. Is crushing passengers on a train an assault? Maybe? How is a police officer to know? Who’s to say? The law in Japan is “ambiguous and elastic … changed, shaped and sometimes distorted by policemen…”

Samourai_photo_1867

I AM the law.

Tokyo police are far from corrupt in the sense that kind of ambiguous legal interpretation might suggest in other nations. But if Tokyo police don’t, as a rule, get in the way of train workers doing their job, the Penal Code of Japan isn’t the reason. The police are guided by different, non-semantic legal principles. They’re guided by giri, the particular Japanese ‘collective sense of decency.’ Here’s a short burst from Meryll Dean‘s fascinating book, The Japanese Legal System:

The essence of [the place of law in society] is caught by Takeyoshi Kawashima who likened law in Japan to an heirloom samurai sword: there to be treasured but not used.[19]

However, the presence of law as an object of interest, even reverence, rather than an instrument actively to be used, implies the existence of some other rules for the management of society and settlement of disputes. In broad terms these are the rules of giri. 

[19] Cited by Haley ‘Sheathing the Sword of Justice in Japan: An Essay on Law Without Sanctions’ (1982) Journal of Japanese Studies 265, n 15 and from which he takes inspiration for the title of that article.

In Japan the meaning of words used in legal principles or in statutes is taken for granted by Japanese people as being necessarily ambiguous and elastic. Here, the people would not be surprised to discover that the meaning of law sometimes is changed, shaped and sometimes distorted by policemen, prosecutors, lawyers and by judges during the legal process. It is inevitable, of course, in every society that lawyers and judges have to change the meaning of law in order to adjust the existing law to a new set of circumstances after the original legal norms have appeared. In European or Anglo-American societies, however, the scope and manner in which lawyers or judges can change or adapt the meaning of the law to a particular situation or set of circumstances is limited. However, in Japan it seems to me that the limit itself is not as clearly established.

Kawashima, T,’ Japanese Way of Legal Thinking’ (1979) 7 International Journal of Law Libraries 127-31

More from Dean’s book to come.

 

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Freeter Professionals in Japan? Part 1

Japan Industry News (JIN) published an interesting breakdown of the legal categories of workers in Japan, leading in with statistics indicating that the incoming Japanese workforce is still mostly interested in lifetime employment within one company.

According to MHLW statistics from 2013, over half of youngsters desire to work for only one company throughout their career. Merely 28 percent would like to work for multiple companies. … Japan’s Cabinet Office shows that the percentage of young people who think that “one should change jobs if not satisfied with current employment” and “one should change jobs to utilize one’s talent” stands at only 28 percent in Japan as compared to 72 percent in England.

Setting aside fully entrepreneurial options, there are effectively two castes of employee in Japan: Lifetime and temporary.

Lifetime work

Collectively, permanent full staff (“Seishain”) and certain quasi-permanent fixed-term (1—3 year) contracts (“Keiyakushain”) are both safely on the life-time track. For both these categories, JIN reports that: “terminating employees against their will is difficult and … costly.”

For gaijin, who generally see nothing wrong with flexible employment, it’s hard to understand the uncritical and necessary loyalty at the core of permanent Japanese work. Especially when the rigors and stressesunproductive environments, and sexism (and sexism, and sexism) of Japanese companies are open secrets. Fear and Trembling (the film) illuminates our preconceptions and experiences.

Anecdotally, among my first experiences in Japan was an afternoon in the company of a man who’d been let go from his position at a Japanese firm. A gaijin, he had embraced the work life and company loyalty of his co-workers, only to discover that it was never expected of him in the first place; and it wasn’t going to be reciprocated. A few weeks after his solitary downsizing, none of his former co-workers would return his calls.

Temporary work

The temporary category includes explicitly temporary Seishain, and dispatched workers (“Hakenshain” or “Temp Staff”) with contracts that must not be renewed for more than 3 years. If you are a Hakenshain coming up on the 3-year anniversary of your first hiring, you have reason to be anxious about your next contract period.

Disenfranchised freeters (フリーター or “furita“) who string together seasonal and part time, low-skill work fall into the temporary category. Post Bubble Culture blog describes freeters in a way the rhymes with Uber driver:

The freeter lifestyle allows for more flexibility and increased mobility in youth, so it is typically seen to be made up of those individuals who have rejected their expected social role as full time salary workers in favor of the freedom to pursue other personal interests.

The other side of freeters, like uber drivers, is the often precariousness and poor work conditions, with little chance of a stable future or social insurance in the event of misfortune. But, like in many countries, freeter-like employment patterns may have migrated upstream into entrepreneurial roles.

Attitudes toward flexible employment in Japan are changing in line with economic stresses, and greater desire for and reality of women in the workforce. From JIN:

Statistics of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) show that while the share of limited-term employees was only 15 percent in 1984, it increased to 37 percent by 2014 …

New slang terms are the bellwethers of social attitudes in Japan, and I particularly like kensetsu komachi, for young women breaking down the door to Japan’s seasonal construction sector. The sharing, Uber-economy is quietly knocking at Tokyo’s door, despite byzantine and determined regulatory resistance. But, honestly, social change is glacial: facts such as “women made up 16 per cent of new entrepreneurs last year’ are still compatible with exaltations of “a renaissance in Japan for women.”

If an employee can’t leave permanent employment for long before becoming forever temporary, starting out as a freeter may seem like a reasonable option, if higher-skilled options are open. For foreigners, who face unpredictable circumstances in attempting to forge loyalty in a Japanese firm anyway, can there be such a thing as a highly-skilled professional freeter? Puro-furita

Immigration considerations for non-traditional employment are obviously primary for many foreigners in Japan, but that’s a topic for another post.

I’m delighted to explore the flexible legal employment space in Japan. And so, this post is just a beginning. Send your thoughts on the question, and I’ll be back in time with more reports from the ground.

 

Calling All Aspiring JETs with J.D.s!

Mecha-hisashiburi’s to you all. The past several months have been intensely busy, with graduation, the bar exam, and following a bit of good fortune, the conclusion to a successful job search. Yes, a job. Happy days are here again. What happened, you ask? Well, I became a contented victim of the “companies are now hiring J.D.s” trend in this absolutely topsy-turvy economy thing we have going on.

In short: I’m going to be involved in the land acquisition end of the natural gas industry. Just picture a mix of the “Rich Texan” from The Simpsons, and the Monopoly man.

Or, picture this guy with a monacle.

Okay, enough navel-gazing self-congratulatory blog-spew. There’s a more important point to my posting: the future of this blog.

Here’s the rub: I am a JET alum, and I do have a J.D., but from here on out I am well aware that my free time to blog for the benefits of JETs and the Japan-obsessed will be sparse. Further, I’ve always felt that this blog lacked the breadth it could otherwise have. The JET program and the legal market is a nice niche, but it’s still an intensely broad area that, even when I had time to blog regularly, I couldn’t tackle all by myself.

Lastly, having talked with lawyers (both old and young) during the course of my law school tenure, I am keenly aware that lawyers’ perceptions of the legal market and the opportunities out there are at times vastly different from the perspective a law student has. I strongly feel that JETs with J.D.s would languish without a JET alum/law student involved.

This is a long and winding way of saying that I am looking for someone (or more than one someone) to take the reigns for this site. While another person interested in private-sector legal work is fine, I’d be really interested in seeing someone interested in public sector/public interest legal opportunities step forward. I feel the public service end of the law is an area where I have been less helpful.

A public sector preference is only preferred, though. All that I would require of a new blogger are two things: (1) that you be a JET alum; and (2) that you be in (or about to attend) law school.

Though there’s no money in it (never was for me 😉 ), there are some benefits to helping out. The biggest of which is contributing to this blog may be the best catalyst to do the one thing law students (and human beings in general) hate to do: network. I know more attorneys and other vital contacts than I would know otherwise because I wanted to have material to blog about and, while I would never name my contacts outright, there gems of wisdom are scattered throughout this blog for the benefit of all. I also believe I would not have received the opportunity I am currently undertaking if it had not been for JET alums and attorneys providing me with personal advice, scouring my resume, and guiding my interviewing style.

If you are interested, drop me a line in the comments, or just contact me directly.

I plan to still contribute occasionally, at least enough to keep JETs with J.D.s up and running. Many of the old posts to this blog are a valuable resource and worth keeping around, and I will do what I can to make that possible.

Finally, I plan to write something up about my law school and job search experience generally sometime in the near future, so look for that post coming soon.

Japan Law Resources

Finally, a post that’s not about the job market! (though if you’re curious, the December employment numbers were generally good, even if legal is still categorically “meh”).

Came across these early this morning and had to share:

1) A lengthy, though tad unwieldy file from the University of Oregon that has a collection of Japanese laws, along with their names in kanji, romanized pronunciations, and English descriptions can be found here.

2) A site with the text of Japanese laws in their entirety, alongside the Japanese originals. Seems like a pretty handy site, though you’ll need some Japanese ability to navigate it. The link is here. Aim for [日英対訳条文] to access the resources I am referring to.

3) Another set of Japanese law and legal terms, sorted by kana and containing kanji and English equivalents can be found here.

See also this old JETs with J.D.s post for additional Japanese law translation materials.

JLPT Registration Starts TODAY

Registration for the December 2010 US-based Japanese Language Proficiency Test begins today.  Head over here to get your registration complete.

Information describing the substantive changes to the new test is available here.

Resources, including kanji and vocabulary lists for the new tests, are available here.

Advice for Legal Interviews: Be Psychic

Okay, well maybe you don’t have to channel Miss Cleo to get legal employment these days.  But, in addition to the healthy dose of luck you’ll need, the legal career services world has created a brand new buzzword concept through which all prospective employees can be vetted: emotional intelligence.

What is emotional intelligence, you ask?  Emotional intelligence, or as those trying to sound more professional than they really are might call it, “EI,” is the demonstrated ability to show, and practice, professional competence by providing good answers to hypothetical questions and connecting with interviewers. The idea behind the concept is that you are being hired not just for your legal acumen and ability to detect italicized commas in a document of hundreds of pages — you’re being hired to develop and maintain clients. What does this all boil down to?  Don’t be a jackass.

It’s hard to imagine why a new buzzword for an obvious concept like emotional intelligence even merits creation, but oddly enough, a JET alum probably possesses more of it than most law students, especially the rural JET alum.  There’s something about being the sole foreigner in a town that breeds the sort of thick skin capable of dealing with clients regardless of whether those clients are truly deserving of your empathy and advocacy, or whether they, let’s just say, suffer from a severe lack of emotional intelligence. Rural JET life is, in many ways, a true test of your personal “EI.”  It may be true that in  a legal interview you are outgunned by the experience of your interviewer, but at least you’re outgunned in your own language.  On JET, your schools and your community are akin to clients.  Their taxes are your salary at the end of the day, and they’re happiness with your presence is the ultimate determiner of where you end up on the scale of Immortal Super JET Hero, or in Utter Misery.

Of course, completely unaddressed in the article is the fact that law school may actually degrade emotional intelligence.  Three years of having your fate decided by ultimately petty distinctions (LSAT score, narrow grading curves, law journal write-on scores, the list goes on) can turn even the most most emotionally balanced and likable person into a petty, cut-throat monster. Not surprisingly, lawyers lead the professional world in depression and drug abuse. If “emotional intelligence” is going to be a significant factor in legal employment going forward, it might be worth it for law schools to consider whether their curriculum amounts to too much of an emotional lobotomy to ensure their students’ some degree of employment prospects.

Networking: Creative Approaches

JET is a rewarding experience for a number of reasons– it exposes you to culture and language beyond your own.  It teaches you adaptability.  It teaches you how to deal with being completely unaware of the nuances of the situation around you and yet still able to navigate around it.  What it doesn’t do however, is help your personal network.  And, the longer you’re on JET, the more damage it potentially does.  In the meantime, your future law school classmates are networking and meeting with the people who will be vital in helping them find legal employment.  I was on JET for three years  — and by the time I left Japan many of my U.S. contacts had gone cold and my network consisted almost exclusively of fellow JETs, rice farmers, and ramen chefs.

This wasn’t the strongest foundation upon which to build a legal career or mount a legal job search in economically tough times.  If you’re going to be doing law school right after JET, I am confident you will have the adaptability and the thick skin to handle the rigors of law school.  Where you’ll need to play catch up with the rest of your class is in expanding your network.

You’ll also have to do most of this work on your own.  Law school does little to develop your personal networking skills, especially if you’re looking to play yourself into the Japanese market.  It offers some opportunities, but aside from Career Counselors telling you: “Go out and network,” the actual advising you can take from them is near nil.  I remember sitting down with Career Services to discuss local Japanese businesses that might take interns in-house.  I got names of two major companies in the area, and that was all.  No contact information, no names, addresses, or alumni.  All I got from the CSO was just a cursory “Try here, and here.”  Better than nothing, but certainly not enough to even have a starting place to really expand my network, let alone seek some kind of employment.

But then I saw something that gave me an idea.  Back in February I came across this interesting article, that documented the blatant networking failure of a job-searching third year law student.  Not only was his cover letter over the top, but the law firm he thought he had contacted turned out not to be a law firm at all, but an IT consulting firm.  A chain of bitter, snarky emails later, the third year walks away with nothing, embarrassed by the experience.  The whole thing is worth a read, but this language from the consulting firm from the tail end of their interaction is particularly pertinent:

So now, stop and think: what if, instead of the reply you wrote below, you had said, “Sorry for the misunderstanding—but since you clearly work with lawyers, can you think of any who might be interested in hiring me?” That could have led to a few exchanges between us as to what areas of law interest you the most, and that would have probably led to me either giving you some specific contacts at specific law firms (probably pre-vetted by me) or, better yet, having me forward your e-mail on to those specific contacts.

There are three lessons I took away from this episode:

(1) Make sure you know where your cover letters and resumes are going;

(2) If you get an email back that is not the glowing response you expected, don’t get snarky even if you want to and they deserve it; and

(3) Most importantly, think about networking outside of just contacting lawyers.

It took me awhile to come up with #3, but once it hit me that if that third year student had handled his mistake differently, he could have walked away with names, contact information, and maybe job prospects, I thought I’d give it a try. I did a Google search of: accounting, Japanese business, and the area I live in, and came up with a number of hits.  Amongst the hits included an accounting firm that claimed to do quite a lot of accounting business with Japanese companies in the area. I sent out a short, inquisitive email expecting nothing, or at most an “I’m not a lawyer, go away.”

moe-595957

Creative networking looks just like this.

I got much more than that. After a short email exchange, an accountant and I agreed to meet after he finished tax season and I finished final exams. After meeting last week for lunch, I walked away with a new great contact and a master list of the literally 180 Japanese businesses in the area, complete with addresses and contact information.

Long story short: Networking outside of attorney channels can work for you, if you do it right.

Japanese Law Translation: The online 法律系の英和事件

Because, frankly, none of us come to law school knowing the Japanese terminology for tort, negligence, or statute of limitations. (不法行為、 過失、時効、 respectively).

Japanese Law Translation has on online Japanese-English dictionary, as well as English translations of current Japanese law available onilne, for free, at its site.  The dictionary is quite good, though there may be some terms lacking (I was unable to get it to produce “Alternative Dispute Resolution,” or 裁判外紛争解決, for example).  Nonetheless, it can be a good place to access some Japanese legal terminology.   And, at the very least the site can equip you with the kanji compounds for quick shorthand note-taking in the margins of your casebook.

The site is located here.

The Toyota Lawsuit(s) as Opportunity

The economy has been in the dumpster for the past year and a half, and last year law firms bled attorneys like crazy.  Current second and third year students are having trouble enough just finding summer work, and the future remains uncertain.  Such is life in the legal market today.

There is one breed of law student however, who may, at least in the near term, have a bit more luck than the rest — the one capable of Japanese legal translation.  A particular auto company with screwy accelerator pedals is mostly to thank for that.  Costs to Toyota just to fend off all the sharks in the water is estimated to rack upwards of  $3 billion. With law school finals looming and the Toyota lawsuits growing, there were a number of regional firms around my area seeking Japanese fluent law and business students.

They weren’t looking for such students for legal or business insight necessarily — it was simply a fact that these firms were going to engage in comprehensive discovery process with a Japanese company, and had no one on staff who spoke or read Japanese.  Indeed, one of these translation opportunities  explicitly indicated that it was looking for Japanese fluent law students, that translation abilities were a plus, and that travel abroad may be necessary as part of the job duties – and this was from a small firm, in Kentucky of all places.  In another instance, and completely thanks to my personal network, I received notice of a Toytoa lawsuit related job posting from a local medium-sized firm before the rest of my law school was even notified.

While the jobs coming out of the Toyota lawsuit aren’t a golden ticket to the world of professional law practice, they do constitute a foot in the door, and with compensation. The little Kentucky firm I had heard from was willing to pay a salary comparable to large local firms, and at a time when few law students can even find volunteer legal opportunities.  Translation work is certainly a better alternative to an empty gap on a resume.

Meanwhile, things with Toyota move forward.

The ultimate point in all this is: (1) If you’re still on JET and thinking of law school, soak up all of the language you can get; and (2) have the network in place for those opportunities that fit your skills when they come along.

US-based Japan Societies

If you want to practice domestically if you get into law school, and still practice in a manner that allows you to use the Japanese language skills and background you gained as a JET, expanding your personal network is critical.  Below are all of the Japan Societies / Japan-America Societies I could find within the fifty U.S. states.  I do not contend that this list is in any way exhaustive, but it does consist of the Societies of which I could find websites or at least address information.

Naturally, your JETAA branches will serve as a valuable support and professional network moving forward, but you will have a better bet finding Japanese professionals to build contacts with in the Japan Societies indicated below.

Japan America Society of Alabama

(I was only able to find the basic information for the Japan America Society of Alaska)

Japan-America Society of Arkansas

(I was unable to find an applicable Japan Society for Baltimore.  I did however find this Baltimore Area Japanese Meetup which may at least provide language reinforcement)

The Japan Society of Boston

Japan Society of Northern California

Japan America Society of Southern California

Japan America Society of Chicago

Japan America Society of Greater Cincinnati

The Japan America Society of Colorado

Japan-America Society of Connecticut

Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth

Japan America Society of Greater Detroit

Japan-America Society of Northwest Florida

The Japan-America Society of Georgia

Japan America Society of Hawaii

The Japan America Society of Houston

Japan-America Society of Indiana

Japan America Society of Iowa

Heart of America Japan-America Society (Kansas and Missouri)

Japan/America Society of Kentucky

Japan America Society of Maine

Japan America Society of Minnesota

The Japan-America Society of Mississippi

Japan America Society of Nevada

(I couldn’t find a website for it, but there is at least a map and phone number for the Japan-America Society of New Hampshire)

The Japan-America Society of Central Ohio

The Japan Society of New Orleans

Japan Society of New York

North Carolina Japan Center

Japan-America Society of Oklahoma

Japan-America Society of Oregon

Japan-America Society of Pennsylvania

Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia

The Japan Association of Greater Pittsburgh

Rhode Island Japan Society

Japan America Society of St. Louis

The Japan America Society of San Antonio

Japan America Association of South Carolina

Southeast US / Japan Association

Japan-America Society of Tennessee

Japan America Society of Tuscon

Japan America Society of Vermont

Japan America Society of the State of Washington

Japan-America Society of Washington D.C.

(The best I could find for anything Wisconsin-based is some address for the Japan America Society of Wisconsin)

The Japan-America Society of Wyoming