Harun Samuel Situmeang
Department of International Relations Law, Faculty of Law of Seinan Gakuin University
Purpose for participating in the internship
We all have the innate ability to learn through experience and continue to grow endlessly. And growth allows us to take on greater challenges in the future. I have always wanted to learn new things and grow, but now that I am come to the end of my academic path and need to hone my professional skills, this urge to grow has become even stronger. It takes a certain amount of determination, especially since I am bouncing back from my language handicap as a foreigner to pursue a highly competitive profession as a legal professional. When I began learning about this industry, I realized that there are numerous opportunities for law students like myself to undergo internship programs with reputable law firms and attorneys in order to hone our skills and knowledge in this field. I also realized that if I could have such an experience, it would be the best step towards my future career.
Among many law firms, I decided to apply for an internship at Ashita no Shishi Legal Office in Osaka because of the reputation of Mr. Atsuro Tsujino, an attorney at the firm. Mr. Tsujino is working actively in corporate and international legal affairs both in Japanese and English. He is also working on refugee-related cases, which I am interested in. I was convinced that internship under such him would be a great opportunity to improve my career. Therefore, I decided to apply for an internship at Mr. Tsujino’s law firm.
I had no prior acquaintance with Mr. Tsujino, so he may have been a bit surprised by my sudden offer, but I asked him enthusiastically and he graciously accepted me as an intern.
During my two-week internship, I met many people with different backgrounds and legal troubles. I read materials about their cases and tried to find the most appropriate solution based on the law. I was also able to draft various documents for case processing and have them reviewed by Mr. Tsujino. For a client in dispute with a certain company, we also drafted a response letter to be sent to the other party to the dispute. I was shocked to learn that, unlike assignments in class or lectures from college, writing just one letter required a great deal of multifaceted thinking. Not only do you need to understand the legal knowledge correctly, but you also need to consider a great many things, such as the manner in which you send the letter to the other party, how you express yourself, consideration for your client’s feelings, and anticipation of the other party’s reaction, in order to write a good letter.
Even a simple combination and order of words can make a big difference in clarity and persuasiveness for the reader. Mr. Tsujino said, “Clients will gladly pay us not so cheap fees because we are able to write high-quality texts that only a well-trained professional can write.” He said. I understood that for lawyers, writing is as important as speaking. How you put your ideas into words and express them is your greatest weapon.
Through the internship, I had a chance to see a labor case in which a foreign national was a party. The cases involved issues such as nonpayment of wages, service overtime, and unilateral changes in working conditions. Foreigners, especially those who tend to lack understanding of Japanese laws, are often victims of these problems. In some cases, foreigners from poor countries are lured to work for Japanese companies with the expectation of a glamorous future, and as a result are treated badly and forced to work excessively long hours. In many cases, due to a lack of Japanese language skills, they do not properly understand the working conditions.
Even when there is concrete evidence of illegality on the part of the employer, a trial can take many years, and even if the employer wins the case by judgment, the damages awarded are often not commensurate with the effort put into the case. Even if the company is proven to be at fault as a result of the trial, the company may not pay a penny in the case of a small company. For this reason, many people tend to be reluctant to fight for their rights. I believe that this situation is a serious problem that needs to be changed.
What I also found most interesting was the case regarding refugees. As you know, the probability of obtaining refugee status in Japan is less than 1%. In other words, it is almost impossible to obtain refugee status in Japan. However, the person that Mr. Tsujino is currently working with seemed to have a good chance of receiving refugee status. Still, given the figure of less than 1%, it may not be easy to be recognized as a refugee. Mr. Tsujino was working hard to gather evidence and make his opinion as complete as possible so that his client could be settled as a refugee. I too strongly hope that he will be recognized as a refugee.
In addition to studying for the trial, I learned several other legal practices. One of them is how to write a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA). I have studied law at university for three years so far, but never once was I taught how to write a contract in English. Mr. Tsujino prepared a sample of a flawed NDA for me so that I could experience the practice of reviewing English contracts. When I reported to him about the defects and proposed modifications to the NDA by researching on the Internet, he gave me a detailed lecture on the basics of how to read and write an international contract. Also, he lent me a book to learn drafting of international contracts. In the future, I would like to study contracts more seriously and make an effort to be able to draft contracts in both English and Japanese.
About My Career Path
As I near graduation from college, I often think about my future. There are a number of questions, but one of the most preoccupying is which profession I will choose. I have to choose carefully because this decision will affect my entire life. I always dream of a profession that I enjoy and find rewarding. I do not want to work for money. Instead, I want to love my profession and my work. I also want to do a job where I can contribute to society and help others.
Since childhood, I have always loved helping people find the best solutions to their various problems. I also have a passion for law, especially international law. Therefore, I have decided that one day I will become an international lawyer. And I have several plans to achieve that goal.
First, I must complete my university studies. It is not easy to study law, especially in Japanese, which is a foreign language to me. The field of law is very broad and there are many articles and interpretations for each article. It is a difficult subject and requires hard work, perseverance, and a good memory. I am eager to learn everything I can before graduation with a voracious attitude.
After graduation, I would like to either go to law school to become a lawyer to fulfill my dream or work in a corporate legal department. Those are not the only two options, but I know that either choice will have a tremendous impact on the rest of my life.
Before becoming a lawyer, Mr. Tsujino worked in the legal department of a major global company, so he taught me many things about the advantages and disadvantages of those two options and his perspective on how to choose between them. Not only that, but he also set up a meeting with the legal director of one of his clients, a major pharmaceutical company. I was able to hear directly from the head of the legal department, who works on the front lines, about the structure of global business and the rewards of working in a corporate legal department, which was very helpful for my career choice.
I have learned many valuable lessons through my internship at Ashita no Shishi Legal Office. I can use all of them to improve my skills in the future. Being a lawyer is a profession that tests not only your legal thinking, but also your critical thinking, business mind, and many other abilities. It is not an easy profession, but I found it challenging and exciting.
I was unsure about my career path after college, but this experience helped me find my goals. I would like to thank everyone I met during my two weeks at Ashita no Shishi Legal Office. I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped me during this period. I am especially grateful to Mr. Tsujino for giving me this precious opportunity and for taking time out of his busy schedule to carefully guide me during these two weeks.