Lawyers and Attorneys in Japan: Types of Qualifications and Scope of Service

Lawyers and Attorneys in Japan: Types of Qualifications and Scope of Service

Lawyer / Attorney (Bengoshi)

Lawyer license is a national qualification certified by the Ministry of Justice. A lawyer or an attorney is a professional who has sophisticated knowledge of laws and can protect a person’s rights and interests. Although lawyers can practice any law-related procedures, lawyers in Japan often choose specific services they want to specialize in and only take on such work. They tend to opt out of providing services for works that can be done by the professions below to the respective professionals. For example, one lawyer may undertake, while another may only accept divorce-related suits.

Lawyers are also the only profession allowed by law, for remuneration, to provide expert opinion, proxy (represent the client) service, arbitration, settlement, and legal advice for lawsuits.

Judicial Scrivener / Shiho-Shoshi Lawyer (Shiho-Shoshi)

Judicial scrivener license is a national qualification certified by the Ministry of Justice. Main services that a judicial scrivener offers are having the correct and latest knowledge of and creating/obtaining adequate documents for official registration procedures and making deposits to an official depository on behalf of clients. There are many types of official registration procedures: real estate registration, commercial registration, corporation registration.  These procedures will arise in various situations such as changes to registration particulars due to inheritance division, trust, title holder’s name or address change, land/building sales transaction, building a house, renunciation of succession, etc.

Judicial scriveners also offer legal and living support through “PIIA Legal-Support Adult Guardian Center” as part of the adult guardianship, a system that protects people who are incapable adults from violation of property rights and from impairment of dignity as a person. 

Some judicial scriveners hold additional qualification to be hired as a procedural attorney (agent ad litem) for legal procedures with jurisdictional amount of 1,400,000 Yen or less.

Administrative Scrivener / Certified Administrative Procedures Legal Specialist (Gyosei-Shoshi)

Administrative scrivener license is a national qualification certified by the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications. Main services that an administrative scrivener offers are creating documents for submission to government and public offices, creating documents regarding legal rights/obligations and certification of facts, agent service for document submission, and providing consultation for creating documents. “Documents regarding legal rights/obligations and certification of facts” indicates documents such as a will, agreement, contract, article of incorporation, out-of-court settlement document, memorandum, agreement of division of inheritance, letter of complaint, certification of contents, letter of apology, conference minutes, drawings in accordance with on-the-spot survey (position diagram, information map, as-built survey, etc.), company’s account books, and more.

Applying for a/an “license”, ”certification”, or “approval” in order to incorporate a company to an NPO corporation, social welfare corporation, medical corporation, educational corporation, religious corporation, etc. is an exclusive license given only to administrative scriveners.

[Example 1: Establishing a Company]

① Hire an administrative scrivener to obtain an approval to start up a company and to create an article of incorporation. ② Hire a judicial scrivener to officially register the company. ③ Hire a lawyer should there be any legal action.

You may think it would be simple and easier to only hire a lawyer throughout any legal procedure. But in Japan, using different professions with adequate qualifications for separate services is more efficient and will save you money.

The above professionals stick to the field of expertise of their choice and may even refuse to take on certain jobs they are not acquainted with, in spite of their qualifications. For example, even though a lawyer can take on any legal procedures, he/she may not undertake your request of property registration if he/she does not want to and refer you to a judicial scrivener.

David Higgins is a full time Japanese/English translation company owner located in Okinawa, Japan. David, his wife Hazuki and four employees and various freelancers of other languages run Okinawa Translator. They specialize in translation of all kinds of documents, technical manuals and on site interpreting for instructional safety classes with the military to family reunions. They have expanded their business all over Japan and overseas to serve customers in any location.

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