Make the Move: Working as a lawyer in Tokyo

Written By:
Kevin Sinnott
Managing Director
Japan is the most intoxicating place for me. The Japanese culture fascinates me: the food, the dress, the manners and the traditions. It’s the travel experience that has moved me the most.  -Roman Coppola

Tokyo has been on the bucket list for many lawyers and even people working outside of law for many years. Tokyo is a city full of history and has something for everyone. With over 38 million people calling Tokyo home, there is a timeless appeal to the city, full of character and heritage. Tokyo is a city where the past, present and innovations for the future co-exist in perfect harmony. With the 2020 Olympics coming up, it is just one of the reasons you should be excited by the prospect of calling Tokyo your new home.
According to the latest CBRE Research Asia Pacific report — The Next Wave of Capital Deployment — Japan can expect to see robust investment by Asia Pacific-focused closed-end real estate funds over the next three years with $55 billion USD of private equity real estate capital to be deployed in Asia Pacific between now and 2020, with Japan being one of the main recipients.

There has been a conscious shift by the Japanese government persuade Japanese companies to invest in the domestic market and in turn increase inbound activity. With the 2020 Olympics looming, it really is a pivotal yet exciting time for the Japanese economy. As of November 2017, Japan ranked third in the list of top 10 countries with the most fortune 500 companies, totalling to 51. With Toyota Motor headquartered in Japan, boasting a total revenue of $255 billion, and coming in 5th in the global 500 rankings, Japan truly represents a fantastic opportunity for talented and ambitious lawyers to develop and work on high value, market leading deals.

There are a large amount of high profile international law firms which have an office in Tokyo, and this number continues to rise. Mayer Brown, a leading US law firm, is due to open up their Tokyo office in 2018 having recently made an impressive hire in ex Managing Partner of Ashurst’s Tokyo office to lead their charge.

The practice areas which are in strong demand in Tokyo are :
  • Corporate
  • Project Finance
  • Banking and Finance
  • Projects/Construction
  • Energy & Resources

Cost of Living

According to research on Expatistan the cost of living in Tokyo is very comparable to Sydney


The hottest months are July through September, with the average temperature being 26 degrees. It can also be quite humid therefore staying under the AC in transit to your meetings is advice not to be forgotten.


If you are a skiing enthusiast, Tokyo is your dream destination. Hoikkado and Tohoku in Northern Japan are definitely worth a visit with the ski season being mid Dec to early April.

Salaries in Tokyo tend to be comparable to that of New York and London in that the Major US firms in the region are offering similar packages to their US counterparts and Magic circle firms offering similar packages to their UK offices in an effort to attract top talent to the region.

As deal activity increases, more and more of the international firms are becoming interested in hearing from non-Japanese speaking lawyers who are interested in making a move to Tokyo however bilingual lawyers which can speak both Japanese and English are very much preferred. As the 2020 Olympics approach, street signs are beginning to be given in English and Japanese which makes life a bit easier again for non-Japanese speaking lawyers!

5 Fun Facts

  • Tokyo is the largest metropolitan in the world, hosting over 36 million people spread over 3 prefectures.
  • Tokyo has the most top-rated restaurants in the world. It is home to over 14 three-star Michelin restaurants.
  • The cherry blossom is the national symbol of Japan. In April, the trees flower for two weeks, this period is known as Hanami.
  • Great for tax-free shoppingTokyo is one of the best shopping destinations in the world.
  • The Shibuya Crossing located in the Shibuya ward is rumoured to be the busiest intersection in the world. At peak times over 1000 people cross at the same time, coming from all directions.
If you’re thinking about making the move to Tokyo or would like to explore the opportunity with further information, please contact Kevin Sinnott via or 02 8277 4511 for a confidential discussion.