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Living as a country lawyer

2016.10.24
Shinjiro Yorii





Shinjiro Yorii
Director, Shimanami Law Office

Law office newly constructed in 2009Law office newly constructed in 2009
In 1967, I was born in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. Excluding the prefectural capital, Imabari City is the largest city in Shikoku, and has a local industry based on the production of towels and shipbuilding. Although having left my hometown to study at Chuo University, I returned to Imabari in 1999 to open a law office after passing the bar examination in 1996.

I opened my law office independently almost immediately after registering as a lawyer. Today, I am part of the Imabari community as the director of Shimanami Law Office.

The birth of a country lawyer

Kurushima Channel Bridge as seen from Itoyama (in Imabari City)Kurushima Channel Bridge as seen from Itoyama (in Imabari City)
1999 was the same year that the Shimanami Kaido Expressway was fully opened. Since I had the good fortune to open my law office in that auspicious year, I was filled with strong aspirations of my office becoming a beautiful bridge for law in the local community, just like the majestic bridge of the expressway. Those aspirations were the basis for the name of Shimanami Law Office. Since the majority of law offices are named after their founders, I am often told the unique name of my office, making it easy to remember. More than anything, my office got off to a successful start thanks to support from the Ehime Bar Association, the Imabari Hakumon Society, the local courts, and residents in the community.
View of Shimanami Kaido Expressway in spring together with cherry blossomsView of Shimanami Kaido Expressway
in spring together with cherry blossoms
At that time, there were only about four acting attorneys in the Imabari Branch (there are 16 today). I was constantly involved in around five cases as a court-appointed legal counsel. I also received recommendations from the Ehime Bar Association and from senior lawyers such as Minoru Takai, who graduated from Chuo University before me. Thanks to their support, my office was profitable from the first year of business, and I was able to start off successfully.

I was also able to hold a party to commemorate the opening of Shimanami Law Office thanks to cooperation from the Imabari Hakumon Society. At the party, Junichi Shigenobu, who had just been elected as mayor of Imabari City, gave a speech before the opening toast. Thanks to my connection with the mayor, I was able to participate in a variety of projects for the city, including serving on various administrative committees.

Reflecting back, I realize how senior lawyers and community leaders taught me how important networking was for operating a business and living in Imabari.

Don’t sit around waiting for good things to happen

You have to make your own good fortune in life.

I had the opportunity to take on projects from a non-life insurance company that was the other party in my client’s case.

I was appointed to take the case of a victim. The accident which took place in the case was what was called a traffic signal dispute (a case in which both parties claim that they had a green traffic signal). It was a very difficult and time-consuming case. However, my client’s account of the accident was accepted almost completely, and my client was very satisfied with the results of the case.

Shortly after the judgment became final and payment had been completed, my office was visited by a director from the non-life insurance company which had been the other party in the case. The director requested that I represent the insurance company in future cases. Until that time, I had only represented victims. I gladly accepted the new work as an opportunity to supplement my experience and knowledge. Since then, I have worked with the non-life insurance company for more than fifteen years.

The overpayment bubble and beyond

From around 2003, there was an increasing number of what were known as overpayment cases. Around 2006, my law office enjoyed a sudden increase in profits due to this overpayment bubble. Although I realized that this overpayment bubble was only a temporary phenomenon, I got caught up in the trends of that time. Assuming that the favorable economic conditions would continue, I even thought about opening a branch office.

My general rule was that overpayment cases were resolved through litigation, not negotiation. As a result, the amount of lawsuits which I handled increased several times more than before, and I had a lot of work to do. I had never experienced such profits; indeed, it seemed like I was operating a successful venture corporation.

The reason why these cases were generally resolved through litigation was because I was committed to seeking 100% collection of overpayment. Litigation requires a great amount of time. In contrast, although negotiation results in smaller monetary amounts, collection is made much quicker. One day, I received a complaint from someone who wanted collection as quickly as possible, and didn’t mind if the case was resolved through negotiation. Ultimately, the client must decide which method to use. This case taught me that I must never go against the wishes of the client, even if my preferred methods would produce better results.

Around the end of the overpayment bubble, I was working together with another lawyer. Then, coinciding with the collapse of a major consumer finance company in around 2010, there was a sudden decrease in the number of overpayment cases referred to my law office. From that point onward, earnings associated with these cases decreased significantly each year. Today, I handle almost no overpayment cases.

Ultimately, I decided not to open multiple branches and relinquished the idea of actively expanding my office. Without a doubt, this prudent approach has led to the continued success of my office today.

People are linked by conveying information

A program for senior citizens is filmed at the law office by a local commercial broadcasting corporation. Program emcee Hiroto Masugata (Director of the theater group P.S. Miso Shiru Teishoku) is on the left.A program for senior citizens is filmed at the law office by a local commercial
broadcasting corporation. Program
emcee Hiroto Masugata (Director of the
theater group P.S. Miso Shiru Teishoku) is on the left.
Although the internet existed at the time when I opened my office, there was nowhere near the amount of information available as today. Therefore, my only option was to acquire knowledge from written materials. The current proliferation of the internet and SNS has not changed my stance towards acquiring knowledge through reading books. However, I am now busy with a greater amount of work and I don’t have enough time for reading. Nevertheless, acquiring information through written materials is a form of essential procurement for lawyers.

Therefore, in order to force myself to read written materials, I started the blog Court Diary of a Country Lawyer from 2005. At first, I wrote articles on subjects such as trips that I had gone on. However, due to influence of my work such as serving on advisory committees, I gradually began to write articles mainly concerned with topics including corporate law, financial law, traffic accidents, and inheritance.

In rural cities, lawyers must be well-versed in a wide range of legal areas. Consequently, I subscribed to a periodical, the Monthly Bulletin on Family Courts (currently the Family Court Journal), in order to gain knowledge regarding divorce and succession proceedings, and I started to introduce cases which I found interesting on my blog Court Diary of a Family Law Lawyer.

Partly due to my aforementioned relationship with the non-life insurance company, traffic accidents compose an overwhelming amount of work. In order to gain expert knowledge on such cases, I participate in training held by the General Insurance Association of Japan and the Jiken Center. Additionally, I am a member of the Japan Association of Traffic Law and the Japanese Society of Compensation Science, and I attend periodic training held by these organizations. I also subscribe to periodic specialist journals such as a collection of civil cases on traffic accidents and the Jidousya-Hoken Journal. Furthermore, I introduce cases which I find interesting on my blog Court Diary of a Traffic Law Lawyer.

As the time goes by, the internet has become an intrinsic part of daily life. Although I first started the blogs for my own personal study, I have continued to update them for more than ten years. Due to that, recently when exchanging business cards, I am often asked “Oh—you are the country lawyer, aren’t you?”

Indeed, my blogs have led to many new relationships. Again, this is case of making my own good fortune by continuing to share information and make my voice heard.

Up until now and from now on

I periodically give lectures at the Ehime Marriage Support Center.I periodically give lectures at the Ehime Marriage Support Center.
Today, there is extremely fierce competition among law offices. As I stated earlier, the population of lawyers in Imabari City has increased four-fold in the last 17 years. Every day, I am devising new ways to ensure that my Shimanami Law Office maintains its standing as the top law office in the region.

My professional network has led to my appointment as an outside director at Fuji Co., Ltd. (listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange, annual business of 300 billion yen) and Takubo Industrial Co., Ltd. (non-listed, annual business of 13 billion yen). I am also involved in other work which is unusual for a regional lawyer; for example, I have installed a telephone hotline at my office to function as an external point of contact for internal reporting systems. My work also expands into a broad range of other areas including serving as an advisor at the Ehime Marriage Support Center, a prefectural organization. I strongly feel that the opportunity to be involved with such a wide range of work is due to the good fortune which I created.

The time I spent away from Imabari to attend Chuo University, take the bar examination, and serve my legal apprenticeship taught me many new things. The Seto Inland Sea sparkles like a diamond and the Shimanami Kaido Expressway rivals the beauty of any highway in the world. As a country lawyer working and living near such breathtaking scenery, I bring people together while valuing the relationships which connect us all.
Shinjiro Yorii
Ishimori Comprehensive Law Office

■Profile
In 1967, Shinjiro Yorii was born in Imabari City, Ehime Prefecture. He graduated from Imabari West High School in Ehime.
In 1990, he graduated from the Chuo University Faculty of Law.
In 1996, he passed the National Bar Examination (51st class; served apprenticeship in Takamatsu)
In April 1999, he was registered in the Ehime Bar Association. He opened Shimanami Law Office in September of the same year.
In October 2008, Shimanami Law Office was incorporated as a legal professional corporation.
He is active in the local community as Advisor to Imabari City, Vice-Chairman of the Imabari Police Council, and Advisor to the Ehime Marriage Support Center (Ehime Prefectural Federation of Corporation Associations). Also, he serves as external auditor for Fuji Co., Ltd. (largest chain store in Shikoku; listed on the First Section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange) and Takubo Industrial Co., Ltd. (major manufacturer of sheet-steel storage facilities). Other activities include frequently giving lectures at seminars held at insurance companies and the chamber of commerce.
While versed in all areas of law as a country lawyer, he specializes in traffic accidents. Many traffic accident cases which he handled have been published in specialized journals.
 ■Major written works
Banking Law Journal 21 No. 769 (Economic Legal Research Institute, March 2014), Citizen & Law No. 98 (Minjiho Kenkyukai, April 2016), and others.
 ■HP
Shimanami Law Office
Shimanami Law Office: Homepage for victims of traffic accidents