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Classifications for Professionals in Japan – Who does What?

We have many types of professionals in Japan, most of which require us to obtain a qualification or licence to practice as a professional. Among other professionals, below are the primary professionals that are related to legal or accounting.

• Bengoshi (Attorney-at-law)
• Benrishi (Patent attorney)
• Shihoshoshi (Shiho-shoshi lawyer)
• Gyoseishoshi (Certified administrative procedures legal specialists)
• Shakaihokenromushi (Labor and social security attorney)
• Zeirishi (Certified public tax accountant)
• Koninkaikeishi (Certified public accountant)


Except for the last two accounting professionals, the rest can be called lawyers in a broad sense. Therefore, we could insist that there are several types of lawyers as separate professionals in Japan. However, most Japanese people recognise bengoshi alone as lawyers.

This complexity often perplexes foreigners whose country has a more straightforward system. In some countries, most professionals above can be covered by attorneys (i.e., lawyers) as a single professional, except for the CPA. Then, each lawyer specializes in a specific area of law and calls himself an immigration lawyer, a tax lawyer, or a patent lawyer.


The English translations of these professionals also make things more complex. The translations in the brackets above are taken from the official website of their governing bodies. However, there appears no consistency among these translations (particularly between bengoshi, shihoshoshi, and gyoseishoshi). In practice, these translations are not always used. For example, shihoshoshi is often translated in judicial scrivener, whose specialties are registration applications and legal documentation. Or, I often call gyoseishoshi immigration lawyers on behalf of clients as visa application is one of their specialties.

Barristers and solicitors

Some countries have two types of lawyers, namely, barristers and solicitors. Barristers are those who appear in court and give arguments instructed by solicitors. Solicitors run law firms and handle all other legal matters, which consist of the majority of lawyers.

The barristers’ role is mainly covered by bengoshi in Japan. Benrishi can handle a particular type of patent cases. Shihoshoshi can appear at summary courts.

Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure that the information on this article is accurate at the time of posting, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ. If you do require advice or wish to find out more about the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

Text by: Atty. Atsushi Miyake of Miyake Law, May 2021.
Read more original and informative articles here.

Fukuoka Prefecture
Published: May 11, 2021 / Last Updated: May 11, 2021

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