A bar association is an organization that lawyers must join to practice as lawyers, and it has a public character as an organization in which lawyers govern themselves, rather than being governed by public authority. Bar associations are the basis of lawyer autonomy, enabling lawyers to operate independently from other authorities and public organizations, with the protection of their clients’ rights as their top priority.
While lawyers must basically run their businesses as sole proprietors and secure employment for their staff and a management base, they also have a social responsibility to engage in public interest activities to fulfill their mission to “protect fundamental human rights and realize social justice,” as stipulated in Article 1 of the Lawyers Act. The Bar Association also exists to fulfill such mission of lawyers.
Lawyers affiliated with the firm actively participate in the activities of bar associations.
The following is a list of the main bar association activities of the lawyers belonging to our firm.
Tokyo has three-unit associations, the Tokyo Bar Association, the First Tokyo Bar Association, and the Second Tokyo Bar Association, and our lawyers belong extensively to one of the bar associations. Many lawyers have taken the lead in public interest activities in their respective committees, and many have held key positions such as committee chairpersons. The activities of the Bar Association are, in principle, unpaid activities, and the lawyers who belong to the committees, with a sense of mission, participate in regular meetings and are active in their respective fields so that the profession of lawyer can become an entity that contributes to the interests of many citizens.
As an example of the activities of the bar association, I would like to introduce the activities of one of the committees to which I belong, the Second Tokyo Bar Association Constitutional Law Problems Review Committee.
The Constitutional Law Committee of the Second Tokyo Bar Association is committed to protecting the Constitution of Japan as the supreme law of Japan, which is the basis for guaranteeing the human rights of citizens. The committee closely monitors the national movement to amend the Constitution and conducts activities such as surveys, research, and proposals to ensure that the Constitution’s values are not undermined. In addition to publishing written opinions, we hold Constitutional quiz rallies to inform the public about the principles and roles of the Constitution, and conduct on-site classes called Constitution Classroom at educational institutions.
The three principles of sovereignty of the people, respect for fundamental human rights, and pacifism in the Constitution are the basis of our free and peaceful life, and it is difficult to be reminded of their value in our comfortable life. However, I believe that the “constant efforts” (Article 12 of the Constitution) of the sovereign will be realized when many citizens become aware of its value. To this end, we believe that it is important for lawyers working in the field as legal experts to convey the value of the Constitution in easy-to-understand language and help citizens to protect it with their own hands.
In addition, when the Diet or the Cabinet is promoting policies that are problematic from a constitutional standpoint, we, from our standpoint as legal experts, publish a letter of opinion pointing out the constitutional problems and submit it to the Prime Minister, etc. We also conduct street advertisements demanding the abolition of security legislation that is clearly unconstitutional. These activities are in violation of the Constitution.
These activities include expressing opposition to the passage of legislation that violates the Constitution and calling for its abolition, as well as urging the government to make maximum diplomatic efforts based on the principles of permanent pacifism and international cooperation as set forth in the Constitution of Japan. For example, the Tokyo High Court has also stated that, with regard to street advertisements, etc. calling for the abolition of the Security Treaty, it is natural for a legal expert to express his/her opinion, based on scientific and legislative findings, that the Security Treaty is unconstitutional, and to express such opinion to the Cabinet, the proponent of the bill, and not to the government for the sake of political principle or for political advocacy. This decision was confirmed by the Supreme Court (Tokyo High Court, September 27, 2009 (LEX/DB Reference No. 25560407), First Petty Bench, March 8, 2008 (LEX/DB Reference No. 25560450)).
If constitutionalism is shaken, the guarantee of fundamental human rights guaranteed under the Constitution is naturally in jeopardy. Once the supreme law of the nation, which is the entity that puts a check on power, is allowed to be disregarded by state power, the Constitution will become mere decoration, and a future in which people’s rights and freedoms will be restricted without limit may be ushered in. Therefore, I believe that activities by lawyers, as lawyers, to monitor constitutional issues and point out issues are fundamental activities to protect the rights and freedoms of people living in this country, and are the very activities that are the mission of lawyers.
The Constitutional Law Committee of the Daini Tokyo Bar Association focuses on activities to deepen understanding of constitutional values, and does not engage in many activities that directly relate to actual life problems that occur around citizens, but other committees take on problems that actually arise around citizens and work in their respective fields to create laws that can solve the problems of citizens. They work to create laws that can solve the problems and create an environment in which many citizens have easy access to lawyers.
In this way, bar association committee activities are activities that lawyers carry out autonomously so that they can serve many citizens and are indispensable for lawyers to serve the best interests of citizens independently from any authority. The high percentage of lawyers belonging to and serving on bar association committees is a result of the fact that each lawyer has chosen to realize the “contribution” aspect of the firm’s slogan, “Freedom, Innovation, and Contribution,” in his or her own free manner.