At FEW’s monthly meeting in April, we heard from two dynamic women working in law in Tokyo: Naoko Matsuzaki, Director, International Anti-Corruption and Global Intelligence for PwC Japan’s Forensic Services Group, and Catherine O’Connell, Founder and Principal of Catherine O’Connell Law and the first foreign female to set up as a sole legal practitioner in Japan.
The evening opened with a pop quiz, and we invited participants to guess how many lawyers there are in Japan, and how many of those are female. As many of us imagined, the numbers are startlingly low, and as Catherine pointed out, the reality is that Japan is traditionally not a country where people sue each other rather, resolving disputes amicably outside of court and Naoko remarked the situation was such that law schools are closing down here.
Naoko lived in the U.S. as a young child, then returned to Japan and graduated from university here before starting work for Japanese industrial companies in their legal departments. As a fresh, new 22-year-old, she found herself working on anti-dumping issues, and having to explain to the U.S. Department of Commerce how the companies worked. She quickly found that the high marks she’d got in written exams in English in the Japanese system weren’t going to help her much, and she actually took a professional simultaneous interpretation course to develop her spoken English skills. As Catherine said, being able to present an argument clearly and concisely is so important as a lawyer.
Being confident when standing up in front of a judge to defend a client is a skill that Catherine says is learned, and she explained tricks to us such as how to hold onto the edge of a desk when talking to appear calm and collected, and to stop your hands from waving all over the place. Catherine didn’t start out in a law. Her first career was as a was a tour guide for JTB in New Zealand for two years before inspiration from her Japanese tourist clients questioning her about law and business in New Zealand, drove her to decide to return to university to study law to train to be a lawyer. She worked for seven years at a law firm in New Zealand, and eventually with her strong Japanese skills and a solid base in commercial and business law, she was hired for a post in Japan in 2002, and has based herself here since.
In their discussion about the ‘Me Too’ movement, and whether there’s any discrimination against female legal practitioners in Japan, Naoko pointed out that one good thing about law is that people are treated equally. It’s not really about being male or female, but it’s about being logical, she said. Skills such as communicating logically and articulating your views clearly are needed for the legal profession and are learned skills, according to Catherine.
After discussing how they developed their careers and some of the skills needed for lawyering, Catherine and Naoko gave us some insights into the broader issues for women in law in Japan. When it comes to speaking up again harassment issues, or even any kind of wrongdoing in a company, Catherine said that it’s incumbent on us all to speak up and to have a voice. The important of keeping evidence, to be able to document everything and support what you want to say, even if it’s just a voice message or an SMS, is something that they both stressed as well.
Q&A with Rina Bovrisse, activist and founder of the Chateau School
Leading up to our upcoming monthly meeting – The Accidental Activist : From Chanel to Governor of Tokyo? – we’re featuring a quick Q&A with speaker Rina Bovrisse. The Q&A is modeled on the Proust Questionnaire, designed to reveal insights into the respondent’s personality. Join us for an insightful discussion next Wednesday, September 12, as Rina […]Published on 9th September 2018
Insider Intel on the Japan Market Expansion Competition
When the opportunity to apply for a Japan Market Expansion Competition (JMEC) scholarship through FEW arose, FEW members Jane Szafraniec (pictured center left) and Nina Cataldo (pictured center) jumped at the opportunity. To understand the full extent of why this was such an amazing space to be in, they’ve shared what JMEC is, their experiences […]Published on 7th September 2018
Event Recap: TELL & FEW Presents The Feminine Eye
On Saturday, August 8th, a group of 11 people interested in learning more about photography gathered at the National Art Center in Roppongi for a women-led photo walk by Selena Hoy, TELL Outreach Coordinator and FEW Community Services Director Tia Haygood, who also is a professional photographer of TopTia Photography.Published on 3rd September 2018
September 2018 Strategic Partner Member Offers & Other News
Check out the latest member offers and opportunities from our Strategic Partners and other FEW Community Events here! Our Strategic Partners are committed to bringing the best services and products to FEW members. And go to our Strategic Partners page to learn more about all of FEW’s Strategic Partners, who not only support FEW’s activities but also […]Published on 27th August 2018
How I got Here: Kirsten O’Connor
I decided at age 7, quite resolutely that I wanted to be a teacher. All my decisions thereafter created the path to a teaching qualification, a first teaching post in London, a promotion and then the biggest decision of all – to apply for a teaching job overseas. In Japan no less. Accepting a […]Published on 27th August 2018
Masterminding – Supporting your Success
People buy things because they like the story behind the brand. YOUR story is a key element to your success. Join us as we kick-off the fifth season of the FEW Women's Start-Up Club focusing on the overarching theme of shaping Your Business Story.
FEW Fundraiser Event with Strategic Partner Mom in Balance Tokyo
Start your Sunday with an energetic and fun workout in Yoyogi Park hosted by instructors and FEW members Julie Mangen and Tanja Kinnen from Mom in Balance Tokyo.
October 2018 Members Exclusive Wine Night
Join FEW for our twice-yearly members-exclusive wine night, courtesy of our Strategic Partner Oakwood Premier Midtown. Come along, network, and share your stories around a nice glass of wine in the stunning ambiance of the resident's lounge!
Midweek Lunch Mixer
Take a break from work and join us for delicious food and great networking at our monthly midweek lunch gathering at Blu Jam Cafe in Daikanyama!
Note: The Lunch Mixer will take place on a Wednesday!