As BigLaw points its cannon at gender diversity, aiming to remedy the disparities in the legal profession, the effort seems to be taking hold in a country that has long lagged behind the rest of the developed world in gender equality: Japan.
Laurie Lebrun, a Tokyo-based partner at legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa LLC, says that an "increasing number" of women have begun to secure senior in-house roles in Japanese corporations and multinational companies in Japan in recent years. She pointed to Angela Krantz, Amazon Japan's legal director and global associate general counsel.
"I do think it's very helpful for women who want to develop business and become partners in the firms they're in," Lebrun said, speaking about the influx of female in-house lawyers. "As female in-house lawyers and business leaders progress in their careers, it will help open additional windows for female associates to develop business and make a case for partnership."
Lebrun pointed out that foreign women who practice law in Japan also often have the right visa status to be able to sponsor a domestic assistant to help with child care, freeing up more time to dedicate to their careers.
She added that the highly respected status of lawyers in Japan means that there is often a widespread respect for men and women who practice law there, as compared to the United States.
The Japanese bar exam is known as one of the most difficult in the world, with only around 20 percent of law school graduates passing each year.
"In Japan, the bar passage rate for lawyers is very low. Because it's so low, it's been more of a meritocracy than other fields," Lebrun said. "If you are able to pass that test, you are imbued with respect."