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Know your negotiating partner

2015.09.24




Osamu Inoue
General Counsel, Hewlett-Packard Japan, Ltd.
Attorney at Law in New York State

Joining a trading company

At Chuo University, I entered graduate school to fulfill my goal of becoming a scholar. After completing graduate school, I joined a trading company in the steel industry. Although I had originally entered the company as a legal staff, I was first assigned in the sales section. I was placed in charge of Japan-based operations for exporting plants to Iran. My work coincided with the Iran-Iraq War, and it was a very stimulating experience. Later on, I was transferred to the legal section, where I become involved in software-related business. This was around the period that IT began its rise to prevalence, and I remember thinking that we were entering the age of computers and software. At that time, my company decided to implement workstations made by Fuji Xerox. As I became more involved, I decided to change my job and work at the manufacturer Fuji Xerox. Spontaneous being my nature, I pursued my interest at that point in my career.

Singapore, my first overseas experience

At Fuji Xerox, I was in charge of legal support for the system business and was involved in projects for constructing network systems for universities and prefectural offices. Although this sounds normal now, at that time there were extremely exciting projects filled with possibilities as well as risks. Afterwards, Fuji Xerox established a subsidiary in Singapore and I volunteered to serve as a member of the startup team. Once every few years, Fuji Xerox selected employees to participate in a study-abroad program, and I hoped that volunteering for work in Singapore would increase my chances of being selected for the program. Although I claimed to be proficient in English before being assigned to Singapore, in actuality, I had almost no English speaking ability. In Singapore, whenever I received a call from a local colleague, I would run to his desk, look in his eyes, and listen intently to what he was saying. By looking at the person in the eyes, and trying hard to understand what they wanted to say, I was able to grasp their message. Also, since I was able to read and write English, I frequently communicated with others by having them write on paper.

Studying at New York University School of Law

After 18 months at the Singapore subsidiary, I was fortunate to have been selected as a candidate for the company-sponsored study abroad program, and entered New York University School of Law. My reason for the desire to study abroad had a lot to do with my difficulty understanding non-Japanese negotiating partners. In order to work equally with non-Japanese lawyers, I strongly felt the need to become familiar with foreign logic and culture. The two years which I spent in New York were enjoyable and difficult at the same time. As I prepared for examinations, I spent all day studying except when I ate, bathed and slept. Interestingly, studying textbooks and technical law books was easier for me than reading the New York Times. Since law is my field of expertise, I had a general understanding for the flow and content of law-related material. Indeed, the experience of studying law at Chuo University proved to be a great help. It was then that I realized that devoting one's self to a certain endeavor will eventually pay dividends in other fields.

Link of law and language

During my first 3 months at law school, I spent all of my time working on reading assignments. Eventually, I was finally able to keep pace with the class. After this experience, I was able to feel that English was becoming a part of me for the first time. Over time, I began to feel that the language was another tool at my disposal. I believe that it is a big mistake to "translate" English into Japanese (or vice versa) in your head. It is impossible to participate in a meeting if you have to translate everything in your head. Language is a particular phenomenon which possesses a historical and cultural background. Accordingly, it is only natural for different languages to be used differently in different countries. Dictionaries merely denote similarities between two words in different languages. Therefore, it is best to understand the meaning in both languages. Hence, Japanese law is based on concepts of the Japanese language, while American law is based on concepts of the English language. A person who understands these concepts can draw upon comprehension which exceeds any dictionary in order to explain how legal terms are used both in the U.S. and Japan.

Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition

I serve as a judge at the Intercollegiate Negotiation Competition, an event where university students compete their arbitration and negotiation skills. Students from Chuo University also participate in this event every year. At the request by retired Professor of Chuo University Law School Noboru Kashiwagi (retired in 2012), and afterwards by Professor Michiaki Abe of Chuo University Law School, my role is to give students feedback at a seminar held one week following the competition. This year marks the fifth time I have participated in this event, and I am always impressed to see how hard students are studying to prepare for the competition. Students are aware that failure to study would result in a major disappointment. Although we often hear the criticism that students these days are too passive, I have witnessed how much effort they are capable of putting when placed in the proper environment. Nothing makes me happier than to witness the hard work of students, and I participate in the competition every year to support them.

Visualizing your dream

At the end of the Edo Period, the Meiji government enabled free travel by abolishing the barriers between domains. Today, the same thing is happening with national borders as we have the freedom to do more things. However, we live in an affluent nation where it is possible to live a comfortable life without ever leaving the country and Japanese people are enjoying a leisurely life. In the future, if younger generations of Japanese people fail to establish the mindset of seeking more experience overseas, the country will most likely meet its downfall. I strongly urge younger generations to have the courage to dream. Every achievement starts from a dream. Having the courage to dream gives people the drive to take action. If you dream of performing on the global stage, it is important to work towards that dream and create a specific image of your future. I believe that the pursuit of dreams is the deciding factor for people’s actions.
Osamu Inoue
General Counsel, Hewlett-Packard Japan, Ltd.
Attorney at Law in New York State
Osamu Inoue, General Counsel at Hewlett-Packard Japan, Ltd., is an Attorney at Law in New York State. In 1982, Inoue graduated from the Department of Law at the Chuo University Faculty of Law. He joined Kawasho Corporation (currently JFE Shoji Trade Corporation), and in 1988, joined Fuji Xerox Co., Ltd.
In 1994, Inoue completed the course for Master of Comparative Jurisprudence, New York University School of Law. Afterwards, he was stationed in Silicon Valley before serving as Legal Director at At Japan Media, Amazon Japan, DoCoMo AOL, Dell and MCI Japan. In 2006, he assumed the position of Executive Officer and General Counsel at Hewlett-Packard Japan. In 2009, he became the Member of the Board at Hewlett-Packard Japan.