Working as an Attorney―The Experience of Being Seconded to a Law Office from a Corporation
1. Admiration towards the legal profession (proceeding from the sciences to Chuo Law School)
I had admired the legal profession ever since I was a junior high school student. However, I became interested in science during my high school days and planned to study science in university. At that time, the system of the National Bar Examination was being reviewed. Discussions were being held on the meaning and importance of graduates from other university departments and people with experience as working professionals becoming legal professionals. Therefore, I had the idea of majoring in applied science at university, with the ultimate aim of becoming an attorney. When I was a senior in university, I studied to enter law school while also spending many hours conducting research.
My time at the Chuo Law School was extremely fulfilling. In addition to classroom study aimed at acquiring legal knowledge, I experienced the work of the three elements of the judicial community (judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys) through mock trials, roleplaying lessons, etc., toured a variety of facilities and listened to the experiences of professionals working on the front line of law. Also, I was greatly motivated by studying together with classmates whom I met at the Chuo Law School, so I was able to successfully pass the bar examination. The relationships that I made while studying at the Chuo Law School are truly invaluable assets in my life.
2. Working as a corporate attorney
After completing my legal apprenticeship, I began working as an attorney at a corporation (a corporate attorney). My employer was a petroleum company. As a member of the legal department, my duties include project support, checking contracts, promoting compliance and providing consultation on disputes and other matters.
I decided to become a corporate attorney because I found it appealing to be able to concentrate on preventive law for preventing disputes in advance, as well as being able to cooperate with people in the Business Administration Department as one of the personnel in charge from the beginning to the end of a project or dispute (attorneys working at law offices are often requested to provide ad hoc assistance).
During the course of actual work, I felt particularly great appeal at working together with managers and people in the Business Administration Department while providing strategic legal support for expanding and promoting business activities. I support the decision-making process of managers and people in the Business Administration Department by appropriately estimating and presenting the amount of risk for reference, and then proposing measures for avoiding and reducing said risk. For example, I provide legal support when the company is considering starting a new business, performing an M&A or engaging in joint research and development. I feel a sense of fulfillment when a project actually succeeds, when a product is released commercially or when negotiations proceed smoothly. “Thanks to your sound support for decision-making, the project went well.” “I’m happy that you were assigned to the project.”—Nothing makes me happier than receiving such words of gratitude when a project is successfully implemented or being invited to a party to celebrate the successful completion of a project.
The corporation where I work handles petroleum and chemical products. I feel that the knowledge which I gained while studying science at university is of great use for understanding the details of our products and services, as well as for providing legal support related to research and manufacturing.
The work of a corporate attorney is meaningful in a variety of ways. For example, in a business environment where speedy decision-making is essential, corporate attorneys should serve as an employee, not as a third party, to facilitate negotiations and evaluate risks by understanding the corporate philosophy, strategy and products. Personally, as an employee of my company, I strive to understand our management vision, business activities, the background behind our projects, etc.
3. Working as an attorney at a law office
Since last year, I have been seconded to a law office in Tokyo. It is common for attorneys to be seconded from law offices to corporations; however, it is still rare for attorneys to be seconded from corporations to law offices.
At the law office, I mainly handle lawsuits. My other responsibilities include negotiations prior to lawsuits, inheritance proceedings, business reconstruction and corporate law.
While working as a corporate attorney, I was mainly concerned with taking measures to avoid unexpected damages and to prevent disputes. Conversely, now that I work at a law office, I mainly consider how to resolve problems or conflicts that have already arisen. I spend my days in deep contemplation of how to configure my clients’ issues as legal claims, how to collect the necessary evidence and how to engage in persuasive argument for having claims recognized in a court of law. My days are extremely busy, yet fulfilling.
These legal issues have a profound effect on the lives of my clients. My work at the law office has taught me the importance of working together with clients to search for the best course of action from a long-term perspective while considering the view of life and feelings of my clients.
For cases involving corporate clients, I am expected to provide objective opinions and proposals as an expert third party. There have been times when my experience as a corporate attorney has been useful in ascertaining facts and making detailed proposals.
While acquiring experience in handling lawsuits and business turnaround cases, I learned the importance and difficulty of preventive law. In the future, I will return to my position as a corporate attorney. By drawing upon my experiences at a law office, I hope to further my performance as a corporate attorney.
4. Advice for people aspiring to become legal professionals
The work of attorneys is extremely diverse and varied; indeed, I have only experienced a fraction of the profession. Nevertheless, working as both a corporate attorney and an attorney based at a law firm has taught me the breadth and fulfillment of employment as an attorney.
In recent years, an increasing number of attorneys work for government offices and local municipalities. Positions such as school lawyers are also being introduced. In the future attorneys are expected to perform in an even more diverse areas. This means that a myriad of possibilities await those entering the legal profession.
Studying at the Chuo Law School will give you the opportunity to build relationships with numerous professionals. I recommend listening carefully to the experiences of these professionals. This will enable you to further clarify your vision for the type of legal professional to which you aspire.
In 2010, Risa Takahashi graduated from the Department of Applied Chemistry in the Faculty of Engineering, Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology.
In 2013, she completed the course for students from non-legal undergraduate schools at the Chuo Law School and passed the bar examination.
In 2015, she was registered as an attorney (67th class) of the Tokyo Bar Association and entered employment at a petroleum company.
She has been seconded to a law office in Tokyo since 2018.