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My Path from a Scientific Researcher to a Law Student and an Attorney

2019.02.01
Takeshi Matsumura





Takeshi Matsumura
Attorney at Law

1. My path from a scientific researcher to a law student and an attorney

Originally, I was conducting research on the seismic resistance of wood-based materials at a graduate school of the sciences. However, after leaving graduate school, I entered employment in the field of education.

Afterwards, I felt the desire to become a legal professional who could protect doctors, architects, and other professionals who possess a high level of expertise and skills, yet find themselves at a disadvantage in the legal system. In 2010, I enrolled at the Chuo Law School in the course for students who do not yet have basic legal knowledge. In 2013, I graduated from the Chuo Law School and passed the bar examination. Currently, I work as an associate attorney at a legal office that handles general civil cases such as domestic relations/inheritance, real estate, construction disputes, labor issues, and medical malpractice.

2. Memories from the Chuo Law School

Reflecting back on the time that I spent at the Chuo Law School, the long period of three years seemed to go by in a flash.

Initially, I studied in the course for students who do not yet have basic legal knowledge. Even so, I was the only student with a background in the sciences and absolutely no experience studying law. To be honest, it was extremely difficult for me to keep up with classes and it was a distressing period of my life.

Even so, I slowly grew accustomed to studying law. I engaged in robust exchange of opinions with classmates studying in the same seminar. If I had any questions, I would ask my instructors during their office hours. My understanding of law increased gradually. All in all, I spent a very fulfilling three years in constant consideration of law.

Recently, I often hear critical opinions directed at the law school system. However, I strongly object to such opinions; after all, how can such people criticize law schools when they never attended one?

At the very least, for a person like myself who was already a working member of society, I never could have acquired such outstanding legal colleagues if I had not attended a law school. Despite being more than ten years younger than me, my classmates held the same goal of becoming a legal professional and would not hesitate to engage me in intense debate. Furthermore, if I had not been able to acquire such fine colleagues, I never would have been able to pass the bar examination with such little trouble. I feel very strongly about this.

3. Protecting professionals who are at a disadvantage in the legal system

(1) The legal status of professionals

I work at a legal office that handles a wide range of general civil cases such as domestic relations/inheritance and real estate. Personally, in addition to domestic relations/inheritance and real estate cases, I utilize my background in the sciences to handle many cases involving professionals such as doctors and architects—for example, medical law and construction disputes.

When handling cases on medical law and construction disputes, I feel that medical institutions, construction companies, architectural offices, and other organizations that employ professionals such as doctors and architects are placed in an antiquated and vulnerable legal environment when compared to other business of the same size. Moreover, despite possessing a high level of expertise, skill, and knowledge, professionals such as doctors and architects are at a legal disadvantage because they are not protected by the legal system.

For example, when I participate in study sessions held by the bar association or research meetings held by the laboratory to which I belonged, I have the opportunity to make business contacts with doctors and architects. I am often greeted with joking remarks such as “Oh, you’re a lawyer? I haven’t done anything wrong!”

Other industries fully recognize the importance of preventive legal intervention such as having legal checks performed for each type of contract. Furthermore, there is extremely high recognition for the importance of having attorneys involved even from the stage in which disputes have not yet actualized. In contrast, it is surprising that doctors and architects in management positions continue to hold the antiquated notion that attorneys are people who help their clients get out of trouble after some sort of wrongdoing.

Once, when speaking with the director of a famous hospital, I made the following statement: “In the current social environment of a declining birthrate and aging society, it is essential to construct a working environment which enables the procurement of medical staff and the stable continuous management of medical institutions.” However, the director rebuked me as follows: “The reason Japan is able to provide a high level of medical care when compared to other countries is that doctors have devoted themselves to medical practice, without regard to any kind of labor laws. Are you really proposing that we do away with this type of medical environment?”

It is no exaggeration to say that this antiquated and low level of awareness towards the labor management system leads to a variety of legal issues at medical institutions. Some examples are the resignation of overworked doctors and difficult financial management due to the payment of all past overtime allowances.

Furthermore, medical institutions and nursing care facilities are in a vulnerable legal environment when it comes to disputes such as medical accidents or accidental swallowing at nursing homes. In this environment, there are many cases in which the compassionate desire of doctors to help patients as much as possible or the desire of nursing staff to satisfy the wishes of residents as much as possible ultimately backfires, resulting in the medical party being held responsible and having to pay a large amount of compensation.

In Japan, it is up to a hospital to accept patients if a medical specialist is not present. In such cases, it is allowable to transfer the patient to a different hospital. However, there are medical accidents in which the initial hospital decided to perform medical care while receiving instructions from a specialist over the telephone, only to have the patient die. In these cases, the hospital and the attending doctor were held responsible.

Furthermore, when serving meals to elderly residents of a nursing home, there are cases in which the resident and family members strongly demanded that bread be served. When the nursing staff capitulated to these demands, the resident choked on the bread and died. Ultimately, the nursing facility and staff were held responsible.

Many of these disputes could have been avoided or resolved at an early stage if a better legal environment had been established.

(2) Protecting professionals who are at a disadvantage in the legal system

In order to protect specialists who are in a legally vulnerable environment, I recommend medical institutions, nursing care facilities, and other institutions to which I provide advice or counsel to have legal checks performed on their contracts and to establish employment contracts, employment regulations, etc.

Also, I hold events such as seminars and study sessions for directors, managers, and professionals as well as workshops that handle complaint cases. Such events are in high demand from medical institutions and nursing care facilities as an effective way of acquiring the correct legal perspective. When holding such events, I fully utilize my experiences at the Chuo Law School; specifically, classes that included practical exercises and seminars in which I engaged in robust discussion with my classmates.

4. Conclusion

This article has emphasized the need to protect professionals who are at a disadvantage in the legal system. However, we must not forget that this protection ultimately increases the quality of services provided by those professionals and provides a benefit to all people who receive services.

I work even harder to heighten my expertise and become a trusted legal professional who can protect all people at a legal disadvantage, not just professionals, thereby contributing to the benefit of all people at a legal disadvantage.
Itaru Oda
Chief of the General Affairs & Planning Division, the Japan University Accreditation Association
Project Researcher at the University Evaluation Research Institute

Takeshi Matsumura was born in Yokohama City, Kanagawa Prefecture.
He graduated from the Junior and Senior High School at Komaba, University of Tsukuba.
He graduated from the Department of Forest Products in the Faculty of Agriculture, the University of Tokyo (major in wood science and timber engineering).
He graduated from the Chuo Law School.
He joins the Tokyo Bar Association.
He has been appointed as a member of the following organizations:
Committee for Adjustment of Construction Work Disputes
Medical Malpractice Subcommittee
The Japan Timber Engineering Society (in the Laboratory of Wood-based Materials & Timber Engineering, Department of Biomaterial Sciences, Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, the University of Tokyo)
He serves as an Instructor of Legal Practice in the Chuo Law School.
He was appointed as Chairman of the Group Department for the Chuo Law School Alumni Association (2017 academic year).
 
  • He served as principal presenter at the 4th Research Meeting of the Japan Medical Management Practice Association (held in Kanazawa).
  • He has held numerous seminars including the special seminars “Response to Cases and Complaints regarding Nursing Care—Study of Risk Management from Judicial Precedent,” “Preventing Misconduct by Home Care and Outpatient Service Providers,” “Medical Malpractice and the Responsibility of Doctors and Medical Corporation Directors,” “Main Points of Lifetime Gifting, Inheritance, and Guardianship Systems as Studied from Judicial Precedent on Disputes” and more.