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Claims against attorneys on the rise


Last January, a Hokkaido man filed charges against the Tokyo-based attorney he had retained to help him with debt relief. The man alleged the lawyer had embezzled refunds that the lawyer had negotiated from consumer finance companies.

The plaintiff had originally made contact with the attorney three years ago after seeing a promotional flyer in which the attorney claimed he could assist people burdened with debts in excess of 3 million yen. The attorney managed to considerably reduce the amount of debt, lowering the man's monthly repayments to less than half.

"I thought the load was almost off," the man tells Takarajima (November).

Because the consumer loan companies had charged the man interest rates above the legal limits, the attorney was able to obtain refunds of 2.5 million yen. The funds were transferred to the attorney's account two years ago, but the client continued paying monthly installments against his remaining debts.

The client alleges if the attorney had handed over the entire refund, there would have been no need for him to have continued to sweat blood for two more years to keep up the repayments.

"I was unfamiliar with the law, and trusted him," the man fumes. "He completely betrayed me." When questioned by the magazine, the attorney responded that he had "intended to return the money eventually" and that "no damage had been done."

"The client was in much better shape that before he started, and was paying off his debts a month at a time," the lawyer replied.

At the hearing, the lawyer testified he had planned to pay himself 940,000 yen for services rendered out of the 2.5 million yen refunded. The two parties finally settled out of court, with the attorney's fee lowered to around 300,000 yen.

The client, however, is still furious, and has appealed to the Japan Federation of Bar Associations to have the attorney disbarred.

Takarajima relates another case of a woman who worked to pay off debts for 20 years after her husband became too ill to work. A commercial debt relief specialist steered steered her an attorney who was participating in a counseling event. Subsequent legal investigation proved, once again, that she had been charged excessive interest and was entitled to a refund. Seven months later the attorney summoned her and she received a 6 million yen payback.

"Here, please take this refund, the lawyer said to me" she relates. "I never thought I would see so much money. My hands were trembling when I took it."

Unfortunately as soon as the woman exited his office, the debt relief specialist who had made the initial introduction was waiting in the wings, and he charged her 2.63 million yen for his services. Attorneys' use of outsiders for retrieving money is prohibited by law, although their use appears to be widespread.

The attorney told the magazine he had no connection to the specialist firm and did not accept such commercial referrals. When Takarajima telephoned to the number on the specialist's card, a recorded message informed it the number was no longer in service.

In 2009, 1,922 people filed complaints regarding unethical practices and others to the Consumer Affairs Center of Japan and other advocate organizations. The figure in 2000 was 310.

The magazine sees three main factors behind the fivefold increase in claims. First was the lifting of the ban on advertising by attorneys in 2000. Second was the deregulation of attorney fees in 2004. The third was the sharp increase in the number of practicing attorneys, which rose from 16,305 in 1998 to 26,930 in 2009.

© Japan Today

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Whenever I hear stories like this I'm reminded of the old joke:

What's the difference between a lawyer and a catfish?

One' a scum sucking bottom feeder, the other's a fish.

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This is a clear breach of Solicitor's Client's accounting rules.

This 弁護士 needs to be de-barred and struck off the roll.

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Ok, ok, so we can see that the Japanese are only human! Yes, Japanese have good lawyers and then they also have scum sucking bottom feeders too. Shouganai ne!

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With the increasing glut of lawyers, there are some who predict that Japan will turn into a litigious society, like the United States. The problem is, it takes at least two years to get a ruling about anything, even a murder in front of 10 witnesses. The court system here moves at a glacial pace.

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Maybe lawyer jokes will start to become popular in Japan too.

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For Japan to be a litigious society is still a long way.

The ratio is 1 lawyer to 5,500 people.

US is 1 lawyer to 500 people.

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Heck these stories are nothing they should try interviewing men and women ( in particular foreigners) that have or are going through divorce and custody proceedings, these lawyers on both sides milk you out of every yen they can and make even the friendliest divorce into a full blown war dragging things on in some of the cases I have seen up to 5 years and more.

Then take the situations where people are hit by obvious cons where they are accused of some crime like assault or theft with no proof and even in some cases witnesses that can verify that they were not even in the area when the supposed crime happened.

Instead of taking your side they tell you directly its a con and it is best to just negotiate a payment (to them the con artist and the other lawyer) or you will loose more in the long run even if you win.

I have seen this many times and in the last 2 months 3 friends and acquaintances have been hit like this ( 2 foreigners and one Japanese).

I like the old joke.

Q: What do you call one lawyer in the ocean? A: Pollution!

Q: What do you called all the lawyers in the ocean? A: The solution!

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Greed is an older practice than the profession of lawyers.

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limboinjapan - That's a new joke for me - thanks! Tee hee!

I feel sorry for some lawyers, especially the ones who are assigned to defend people obviously guilty of horrific crimes.

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We have more lawyers now in Japan since passing the Japanese bar got a little easier. Its not even close to being as easy as passing a bar exam in the US, mind you. I believe the Japanese Ministry of Justice will keep a tight grip on the fossett by turning it off if there are too many bengoshi. Lawyers are necessary but too many of them and we become overly litigious and a blood sucking lawyer culture may appear.

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Lawyers are necessary but too many of them and we become overly litigious and a blood sucking lawyer culture may appear.

I fully agree with Porter's statement.

When there are too many lawyers with too little work, the society will be more litigious.

The problem with Japan bengoshi is - they are geographically confined to Japan. Even Japanese companies choose to litigate in London or NY rather than in Tokyo. Maybe they have no trust with the legal process in Japan.

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Maybe they have no trust with the legal process in Japan.

Aisan, you hit the nail on the head. Recent stats show that there were whopping 40 or so international arbitrations in Japan - compared to like, 400-something in Hong Kong, 400-something in London, etc. etc. Yes, there is little trust in the Japanese legal system and the above story is exactly why. Not that it doesn't happen elsewhere - there are horrible lawyers wherever there are lawyers but at least there are countries with independent competent bar associations that investigate and disbar those attorneys that abuse their position and harm the public. Where I come from a couple DUI's will earn you a suspension and have it published, along with your name, in the national media. As you can see above, however, a Japanese lawyer can essentially steal from his client and still face NO PUNISHMENT by the bar association. (The client is apparently "appealing" to the bar association to have him disbarred. Funny how the bar association doesn't feel it's significant enough a crime to act on their own accord.)

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John Lennon added impromptu lyrics to the melody of Frank Zappa's "King Kong" at a Zappa live perfomance. The lyrics comprised of one word, repeated over and over, a word which best describes lawyers in general: "scumbag".

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We have more lawyers now in Japan since passing the Japanese bar got a little easier.

Its not even close to being as easy as passing a bar exam in the US, mind you.

You have taken and passed both a US bar exam and the Japanese bar exam? People enjoy talking about how difficult the original Japanese bar exam was and how the new exam is still tougher than US bar exams. However, I promise you that if people could take the New York or California bar exams without ever attending law school, the two states would also have pass rates around 1-3%. That was the situation you had in Japan before the law school system was introduced. The current bar exam in Japan has 3 sections: Multiple choice questions, essay questions & an interview. By far, the hardest section is the multiple choice questions. The essay questions are stupid simple in comparison to the long and very complex essay questions you will see on the New York or California Bar exams. Another reason the pass rate for the Japanese bar exam is lower than US bar exams is the grading system used in Japan which is more harsh version of the Bell Curve.

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This is fraud at its highest order.

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I was a lawyer for about 15 years. The whole "profession" worldwide is completely out of control and needs to be stopped and started again with some rules. I would go to conferences and/or meetings and look around and realise that everyone in the room was scum and simply out for all they could steal. I had to move on to doing other things.I am sure that these stories uncovered by Takarajima etc are just the tip of the iceberg. Please anyone dealing with a lawyer get a contract which records how much they will pay you and whenever they recover money for you have it paid into an independent or 3rd party`s account such as that of your accountant.Otherwise you are certain to be skimmed

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"Claims against attorneys on the rise"

"the sharp increase in the number of practicing attorneys, which rose from 16,305 in 1998 to 26,930 in 2009."

No surprise here. Japan wanted to drastically increase the number of practicing attorneys. Well, obviously there would be pros and cons to all this.

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