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Coming into My Own as a Female Lawyer—Life as a Small-town Lawyer at the Kumagaya Branch

Aoi Namaizawa

Aoi Namaizawa
Instructor of Legal Practice, Chuo Law School

My clients enable my career as a lawyer

“I’m so glad that I chose you as my lawyer.”

“I really appreciate all of your kindness.”

Words which support me all come from my clients or defendants. There aren’t many professions which receive such frank expressions of gratitude. Even today, my work as a lawyer gives me a strong sense of happiness.

I should now introduce myself—I work as a lawyer in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture. My area of expertise is divorce issues, divorce related issues, and questions of infidelity. However, I am what is often called a small-town lawyer, so I have handled a variety of cases which include the citizen jury system, preservation of evidence for medical incidents, labor tribunal decisions, building vacation, investment fraud, credit and financing incidents, and division of the estate (inheritance).

The work of a small-town lawyer requires direct interaction with people, which can be very intense.

Even so, I think that working as a lawyer is wonderful. This feeling comes from the clients who require my services and complement my professional abilities.

Image from the top page of the mobile
version of “Daily Life of a Female
Lawyer in Kumagaya”
Although I came up with a striking title for this article, my life as a lawyer is nothing special; instead, it is filled with humanity. (For details on my life as a lawyer, please view my lawyer blog “Daily Life of a Female Lawyer in Kumagaya: https://blog.goo.ne.jp/bengojoshi”. I update the blog almost every day.)

Starting out as a new lawyer—also known as a lawyer cosplayer

Uchiwa Festival, a famous event in Kumagaya

Upon fulfilling my dream of becoming a lawyer, I started my law career in Kumagaya City, Saitama Prefecture—a place to which I was a complete stranger.

Although I had a variety of changing emotions which caused me to become interested in a variety of different legal cases, some things always remained constant—I had a passion for “frank interaction with people,” I wanted to “work under my own name, not as just another cog in an organization,” and I desired to “take part in legal proceedings as a certified professional.”

Despite my passion, I had absolutely no professional experience when starting out. Furthermore, I had no certification other than my registration as a lawyer. I had spent all my time studying and knew nothing about the real world. Even though I wanted to work as part of the community, there was no region which would support me. In the end, the sweltering temperatures in Kumagaya far surpassed my passion…

Yet another difficulty was that I completely lacked the dignified aura that people expect of a lawyer—intellectualism, sternness, authority, dignity, and the like. When I accompanied my boss to court, people would ask if I was a legal apprentice. If I went with my boss on settlement negotiations, I was mistaken as a female staff member. When returning from my initial interview with the suspect upon my first case as a court-appointed defense counsel, I was groped by a molester and ended up going to the police station as a victim (a record at the police station where I went shows that I affixed my official seal from work in place of my fingerprint).

Ultimately, I was given the nickname of lawyer cosplayer.

Actually, I liked the nickname because I felt that it was right on the mark!

Realizing again my status as a woman

Now, considering my nickname of lawyer cosplayer, do you think that anyone asked for my services as a lawyer? The answer is a resounding yes!

When I first started working in Kumagaya, there were about 60 lawyers at the Kumagaya Branch of the Saitama Bar Association. Women accounted for only about 10% of this number. The expectations and needs for female lawyers were much greater than I had expected.

Actually, until I began working as a lawyer, I never strongly recognized my own gender. I had lived in a blissful world in which there were no differences between men and women. I entered the legal profession without ever considering the issue of gender. Conversely, I had never liked any special or unfair treatment given to women.

However, once I actually became a lawyer, I was praised for becoming a lawyer despite being a woman. Some of my clients were happy to be able to deal with a female lawyer. To be honest, this confused me slightly at first.

Now, what does it mean when people focus on my gender? For the first time in my life, I found myself considering how my gender affects who I am as a person.

At the same time, upon entering working society as a lawyer, I realized that women cannot exist in society without recognizing their gender. For example, my gender was one of the reasons that I didn’t possess the dignified aura expected of a lawyer—something which caused me great worry.

For the first time, I focused on being a woman. I realized that I am much different from men when comparing communication tendencies, the way in which I voice my opinion, the way in which I speak, and the aura created by my appearance. Here’s an example (although it may be inappropriate)—when I was in law school, I had loaned a textbook to a male student. Afterwards, I noticed that the book had been slammed down haphazardly on my desk in a diagonal direction. At the time, I simply laughed at the brusque way in which the male student returned a book. If I had borrowed the book, I would have returned it together with a thank-you note and a piece of candy. Even in trivial areas, men and women are quite different in how they act and perceive the actions of others.

“I’m so happy that I am able to deal with a female lawyer.”—Upon hearing these words of praise from my clients, I was filled with firm resolve. I had been mistaken in trying to emulate male lawyers. I was appalled at the prospect of spending my life trying to act like a male lawyer. Therefore, I decided that I wanted to make the most of my career as a female lawyer!

Coming into my own as a female lawyer

During legal consultation at the office
Lawyers have to fight for their clients. This applies just the same to female lawyers.

It is said that lawyers rarely make objections in court. However, when I am in charge of examination, I often raise my hand to make an objection.

Allow me to introduce an example of going to battle in court. Even in the case of a female lawyer who does not speak in a loud voice and is dozens of years younger than the opposing lawyer, objections will be sustained as long as the female lawyer correctly remembers the requirements of objections and listens carefully to the details of examination. Furthermore, after holding repeated meetings with my client, I am able to judge cases when it is actually appropriate to allow my client to answer the questions being posed. Also, clients are pleased when their lawyer makes objections.

There are countless ways in which lawyers go to battle in court. I am currently studying these tactics. However, a lawyer cannot win in court simply by raising his or her voice.

Now, this is my own selfish idea, but I am fond of my clients. I feel gratitude towards them for selecting me as their legal representative. Moreover, since I handle cases in a customized fashion, it is not possible for another lawyer to take over a case in progress. Accordingly, my clients show concern for my health and work-life balance. Naturally, this motivates me to work even harder for the benefit of my clients! These feelings give meaning to my work as a lawyer.

In closing, a message to aspiring lawyers

Finally, my message to aspiring lawyers is this: there are prospective clients looking for exactly what you offer. At times, I see the spotlight being placed on grand and accomplished lawyers—exactly the type which can make aspiring lawyers feel inadequate. Just remember, you have to be yourself, so don’t worry about others.

Lawyers deal directly with people. People come in endless varieties, so lawyers must also come in endless varieties.

Furthermore, in order to provide insight on my work as a lawyer, I work as an instructor of legal practice in the Chuo Law School and provide assistance to students.

I hope that this article is an easy-to-understand introduction of how a myriad of different lawyers are needed in the legal profession.
Aoi Namaizawa

Aoi Namaizawa was born in Chiba Prefecture. She graduated from Tokyo Gakugei University Senior High School.
In 2005, she graduated from the School of Law, Waseda University.
In 2008, she completed her studies in the Chuo Law School.
In 2010, she was registered as a lawyer (Saitama Bar Association) and entered Kobato Law Office (working here currently). She serves as an instructor of legal practice in the Chuo Law School (current position).