Yoshio Shimoda has been practising Japanese immigration law since 1994. He is recognised by the community of international firms, as the “go-to guy” for all of their immigration needs. His client list includes banks as well as auto, IT, oil and pharmaceutical firms. He joined the IBA in 2003, as the first Japanese immigration lawyer to be granted a seat on the committee. He has been a regular speaker since 2002 at international conferences including the IBA and AILA.
What inspired you to enter the legal profession?
I personally experienced many difficulties dealing with immigration law when I was residing in the US. When I returned to Japan, I realised that there were only a few lawyers able to handle immigration cases in Japan, and fewer still specialising in immigration law. Noticing an increase in the number of foreign residents in Japan, I realised that there was a need for a reliable lawyer specialising in immigration who could deal with important legal issues.
How have you built and maintained a highly successful practice in this area?
When I established my first firm, ILS Shimoda Office, it was recognised as the first immigration law firm capable of providing comprehensive legal immigration services to foreign companies. I created a system to track and follow up on all the data of the foreign clients that I acquired visas for. All communication was handled in English. I was thus able to keep my clients up to date on the many changes and stipulations in Japanese immigration law.
What has been the most memorable matter that you have worked on?
I worked on some important cases that required patient negotiations with the Ministry of Justice. Subsequently they actually changed some of the rules and laws already in place relating to such cases. I am quite sure that some of those changes were influenced by my consultations.
How do you distinguish yourself from competitors in the market?
I take personal pride in being able to handle difficult cases with my deep knowledge, experience, understanding and creativity. I think it is very important for a lawyer to have creativity, and to be able to recognise and gather all the pertinent information to make informed decisions to acquire visas in a lawabiding manner. Our clients have been very satisfied with the results, and keep returning to our firm.I take personal pride in being able to handle difficult cases with my deep knowledge, experience, understanding and creativity. I think it is very important for a lawyer to have creativity, and to be able to recognise and gather all the pertinent information to make informed decisions to acquire visas in a lawabiding manner. Our clients have been very satisfied with the results, and keep returning to our firm.
What advice would you give to younger lawyers starting their career in this practice area?
I would inform them that the services we provide are very important to people. When someone wishes to cross international borders to work, study or be with someone they care about, immigration law could be a formidable barrier. It is important to understand and not forget that our legal services would make someone’s life completely different in a positive manner.
Has the past year seen any major political or economic developments in Japan that have directly affected the practice area?
There have been no major developments in the past year. The Abe administration still maintains stable support from voters in Japan. This allows Prime Minister Abe to continue introducing measures to bring in more highly skilled foreign nationals into Japan as a part of his overall economic strategy.
Lawyers have recently noted a rise in cost-consciousness on the part of clients, as well as subsequent fee pressures. Has it forced you to reassess your fee arrangements?
Of course, we can’t ignore the reality of economic trends. However, the aspect of the fee doesn’t have to be a priority of a client’s decision to choose or not to choose a reliable firm to handle their immigration needs.
What qualities make a successful corporate immigration lawyer?