Advice re Japan Law Society, Tokyo/Osaka association of NJ lawyers: they really won’t pay you if they invite you to speak


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Hi Blog.  As a Sunday Tangent, let me express some long-overdue dissatisfaction with an organization that I gave a presentation to quite some time ago.

The Osaka-based Japan Law Society (AKA Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad) invited me to speak for them on September 4, 2008.   I did just that.  According to their website:

September 4, 2008 Non-Japanese Residents and the Japanese Legal System: Cognitive Dissonances to Consider Arudo, Prof. Debito (David Ardwinckle) [sic] speaker’s home page Constitutional & Civil Rights

I spent a number of days on my powerpoint (see it here) and my handout (see it here), staying a couple of days in an Osaka dive hotel at my own expense working on it.  I tried to make a seminar worthy of overseas educational credit (which is what their Continuing Legal Education program is about, see FOOTNOTE below; I have emails indicating that they applied for it, and they had me fill out an application for it).  Thus I believe people would pay money for this class if it were offered overseas.

But after I gave the presentation, I was paid not a sou.  This was not made suitably clear to me in advance, and when I inquired about this situation last month, this is the exchange we had.  I sent:

2009/10/29 Arudou Debito wrote:
Tokyo Coordinator Ms. Akane Yoshida Licensed in New York
Legal Department Kao Corporation
Tel: 03-3660-7049 Fax: 03-3660-7942

CLE Coordinator
Mr. S. McIntire ALLEN (源 眞久)
California Bar License #210750 & New York Bar License #2785913 Not licensed in Japan
phone +81-(0)50-5806-8816 or +1 (310) 929-7256 facsimile: +81-(0)6-6131-6347 mobile: +81-(0)90-5469-7675
voice/video: Skype gaikokubengoshi

To Whom it May Concern

My name is Arudou Debito, and I spoke for the CLE on September 4, 2008 on “Non-Japanese Residents and the Japanese Legal System: Cognitive Dissonances to Consider”. Record is on your website at

I apologize for the lateness of this letter, but I have been checking over my records recently, and I have yet to receive payment for costs (transportation, accommodation) or for speaking honorarium for this occasion.

Please contact me at your earliest convenience how much we have outstanding, and I will send you remittance details.

Thanks very much for your attention.
Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Their response:

From: “S. McIntire ALLEN”
Date: October 29, 2009 5:46:36 PM JST
To: Arudou Debito
Subject: Re: To Japan Law Society: Some unfinished business from September 2008, from Arudou Debito


From the very beginning we explained more than once that there was no honorarium, and you acknowledged that in a phone conversation with me when asking me about where to find inexpensive accommodations. I told you we are a volunteer organization, and you were our second speaker ever, and we had a negative balance in the accounts. I don’t know where you got this idea that we would reimburse you for travel.

As a consequence of you bad mouthing us on your home page, we do have a questionnaire now that enables us to have a record of the speakers acknowledgement that there will be no payment:


S. McIntire ALLEN (源 眞久)
California Bar License #210750 & New York Bar License #2785913 Not licensed in Japan
Sent from Osaka, 27, Japan

More fool me, you might say, for accepting this invitation. But quite honestly, I have never given a speech in Japan where there was no remuneration whatsoever. Even those organizations who said it was “volunteer” paid me 5000 yen in travel expenses without telling me in advance.  It’s common practice in this society.  It’s what professionals do.

Moreover, lawyers are not a profession short of money.  Quite a few people attended the presentation (it was even video simulcast), and when I told a couple of them (including Japan Times reporter Eric Johnston, who also attended) I never got paid, they were quite shocked.  Even they said that it would have not put them out to chip in something like 1000 yen as an entry fee.

The biggest irony here is that we’re talking about lawyers.  They’re quite willing to sell their services to the highest bidder.  But it appears that some of them aren’t willing to pay for the services that will further the interests of their organization, and their own professional and educational experience and credentials.

Mr Allen even contacted me for research purposes on July 10, 2009, and about a separate legal matter on July 12, 2009 (which I will keep confidential), despite all this.  I declined to answer.

I guess the lesson to be learned here is that when the Japan Law Society invites you as a speaker and then says it will not pay you, take it seriously.  It won’t.  But that’s in my opinion quite unprofessional and deserves to be known about.  Professionals who want related professional assistance should be willing to compensate the provider for the service.  That’s how the system works when professionals are involved.

Arudou Debito in Sapporo


FOOTNOTE about CLE credit being applied for via using volunteer professional help:


JLS presents low-cost CLEs connected by video teleconference between Osaka and Tokyo. The CLEs permit Japan practitioners to exchange experiences in an informal setting.


JLS is an approved Multiple Provider under the auspices of the California Bar Association. Please check with your jurisdiction to see if they accept credit for CLEs approved by California, or the California Multiple Provider Rules. If you are licensed in a jurisdiction other than California, and you have information about your jurisdiction’s CLE recognition, or lack of recognition, of California CLE credits, please send that information to the CLE Coordinator so we can post the information on the Accreditation page so that other JLS members may easily find the information. Please indicate the source for your information.
California calculates credit based on 60 minutes of class time per hour.  Some jurisdictions, such as New York, accept 50 minutes of class time to qualify for one credit hour.  For instance, a two hour JLS CLE could be worth 2.4 hours of CLE credit in a 50 minute jurisdiction.  California attorneys participating in Japan in a CLE accredited by a 50 minute jurisdiction are permitted to claim a 50 minute hour of instruction as one hour of credit.  However, JLS CLEs are accredited by the Bar of California, so all credit hours must have one hour of instruction time.  Please check with your jurisdiction if you have questions about accreditation.


24 comments on “Advice re Japan Law Society, Tokyo/Osaka association of NJ lawyers: they really won’t pay you if they invite you to speak

  • Debito,

    Do you honestly think that airing this type of dirty laundry in public (even if you happen to believe that institutes generally should pay their speakers in some form — and in my experience, it’s a mixed bag in Japan and abroad) actually helps your professional reputation? Remember — it’s really your reputation on the line when something likes this comes up. The true professional always keeps his cool and remains gracious *in public* even with the most unsavory of situations. Employers and future lecture hosts might think twice about hiring and/or inviting someone who appears difficult to work with in these situations.


    — Thanks for the feedback. I believe that people should be paid for their work, especially when the beneficiaries can afford it. I also believe that people should be aware of organizations who won’t uphold a minimum standard of compensation.

    I’m willing to risk my reputation on upholding minimum standards, as I always have. I’ve worked hard to get knowledgeable, as lawyers themselves have, and if they deserve compensation for their works, so do we speakers when we’re benefiting them. If it means I lose invites from people who aren’t going to pay anyway, oh well.

    I hope airing things like this will help end the “mixed bag” that you too have experienced, so I hope you will be supportive.

  • Yeah, Debito, I gotta say…you should just let this one go. It shouldn’t just be assumed that some individual or group would offer renumeration, even though I think you should have been compensated. All parties should have made everything clear beforehand. Move on from this one.

  • Debito says, “This (whether you were to be paid or not) was not made suitably clear to me in advance …”

    The Japan Law Society (JLS) says, “From the very beginning we explained _more than once_ that there was no honorarium, and _you acknowledged that_ in a phone conversation with me …” (emphasis supplied).

    So, please be clear yourself, Mr. Debito. Are you saying they’re lying?

    While generally I agree that organizations that seek professionals to give speaking engagements should, in most cases, provide at least reimbursement for expenses, JLS claims they made it clear to you, and you _acknowledged_, that there would be none in this case. I myself have given presentations, and given of my time and costs in preparation and travel for them, where I did not receive anything in return, other than the honor of providing a service to a worthy concern. Based on the evidence before me, I think you’re in the wrong. If you expected compensation, you should have made that clear to them, and declined to speak otherwise.

    Of course, if they lied to you, or are lying now, that’s a different matter. But you should be clear about that with supportive evidence if that’s what you’re saying. I feel JLS may be justified in feeling you are “bad mouthing” them in a public forum, which does not in my opinion reflect well on you.

  • Debito,

    I sympathize with your situation; I’ve always been paid for my speeches. Even when I tried to refuse payment once, my Japanese hosts insisted. At the same time, I agree with Peter that this is probably not a productive way of resolving your difficulties with this institute, or your disagreement over remuneration.

    Frankly speaking, this entry does not put you in any more of a positive light than it does CLE. I suggest you take it down.


  • they could of at least passed around a basket for donations. put what do you expect it happened in Osaka. the cheapskate capital of japan.

  • Points from post #1.2 are well taken BUT unless you are working for a volunteer organisation (and even then I’ve been offered money for travel etc) it’s an unwritten rule that you get paid something. For a bunch of lawyers… to not pay anything is so . Name and shame them – there is no excuse to not pay travel and accomodation even if there was an agreement for non payment for the actual speech. It’s just my one yen’s worth…

  • Debito, were you invited by the organization, or the members of the organization?

    Listening to the organizer:
    “I told you we are a volunteer organization, and you were our second speaker ever, and we had a negative balance in the accounts.”

    Sounds like it was the organization, so it doesn’t make much sense for you to go on about how much the lawyers behind the organization can afford to pay you. If they told you they were broke at the beginning, then it means the work you did was pro bono. Let me be the third person to tell you that it would behoove you as a *professional* to just chalk this up and move on.

  • I think you have to decide whether you are primarily an activist or a speaker/lecturer. Both require an appetite for self-publicity – no bad thing – but an activist would have welcomed the platform the Law Society offered while a lecturer would have seen it as a professional service. Generally, you present yourself as the former, not the latter, so there is room for misunderstanding when you then want to argue that you were providing “professional assistance”.

    I agree that it would be usual to provide some travel allowance if you are being invited to come from afar but that’s something you ought to have negotiated in advance, not tried to claim afterwards. If they had baulked at the idea, then you would have had the choice of turning their invitation down or looking to cover your costs some other way. Perhaps you could have asked them to buy some copies of your book.

    In future, whichever route you choose, the lesson is to sort out these details beforehand.

  • Keep this entry up! You’re absolutely right they are acting cheap for a bunch of lawyers. How many lawyers are there in Japan to begin with? They practically run a monopoly.

    They can’t pop for 50 bucks to help a volunteer speaker out who gave a speech that normally would have run into the hundreds of dollars? And then to tell you that their books are in the red, that’s really odd.

    Sounds like they’re bunch of cheap skates.

  • I guess it really depends on whether they actually told you in advance that there would be no honorarium or travel reimbursement.

    If what the fellow says is correct and they told you, you have no one to be angry with but yourself for assuming there would be one even when told otherwise.

    Their profession or even ability to pay is not the issue, whether they were honest and forthright is really the only issue.

  • In the future, you can avoid problems like this by following the simple GPF rule.

    GPF stands for Get Paid First.

    In this specific case, I agree with those who say you should bite the bullet. And next time, GPF.

    — Point taken. But I have never been paid in advance for any presentation I have ever given.

  • Another nail in the coffin for the supposed Japanese tradition of unspoken contracts and honour, ie. they paying you without you asking directly because its the right thing to do.

    This organization needs to put everything down in writing beforehand; something I am sure they are loathe to do, but, tough.

  • Mostly, I’m just surprised that they wouldn’t at least attempt to reimburse you. Debts (social or monetary) are taken very seriously in Japan, and I never fail to return a favor or compensate someone for their help, even in America. Seems like a small thing to gripe about, but when you consider the Japanese culture it IS surprising.

  • Civil Code
    Article 648 In the absence of any special agreements, the mandatary may not claim remuneration from the mandator.
    Article 650 If the mandatary has incurred costs found to be necessary for the administration of the mandated business, the mandatary may claim reimbursement of those costs from the mandator and any interest on the same from the day the costs were incurred.

    So, if they asked you to give a lecture, and if there was no agreement on remuneration or reimbursement, you cannot get remuneration, but can get reimbursement for the travel costs.

    If you asked them to allow you to give a lecture, or if there is an agreement that they will not pay anything, you get nothing.

  • Well, according to HO’s legal “analysis” you can get go after them for the out-of-pocket expenses. Maybe HO will even represent you for free?
    In any event, I heard you speak at the Roppongi Bar Association in Tokyo a couple of years back and it was great. Very good talk and lively discussion. If you ever give another talk there I, and several others I know, would attend. (BTW, I hope they paid you.)

    — I got some compensation, yes. The JLS is the only place I’ve ever spoken at which did not compensate.

  • I hope you were able to spread your usual good word about issues affecting foreigners in Japan during your presentation. I am sure you did us all well.

    Regarding payment – I would have to agree that it is better to get things sorted out up front before agreeing to speak or accept that you are doing the presentation gratis.

    I and my employees have given technical presentations to some major industry groups in Japan. There are a few cases where we were uncompensated (for time and travel)and there was no remuneration whatsoever. There was only one occasion when I felt “used” (they actually had a dinner for the speakers at a convention in Chiba and in the end asked us all to split the bill) but generally I weighed the cost and effort for preparation against the potential return.

    I guess in business this is typically weighed using return on investment as metrics but there are cases where it is good to “contribute” to science or technological advancement.

    In Debito’s case I think the rate of return is getting his message out to the legal community in Japan. It is a shame they could not kick in for your accomodation and travel expense though.

    As a sidenote – If you look at the website of JLS it appears they do pro bono work on behalf of parents whose kids have been abducted to Japan……so maybe your gratis presentation did in the end have a positive rate of return!


  • Sorry to hear about the bad experience. Be warned that most lawyers who have interracted with “Mac Allen” wants anything to do with him. He has blazed through a dozen jobs in his career, is currently unemployed after being fired about half a year ago for fighting with his boss and then trying to sue him, and his bizarre antics (such as his crazy e-mails) reflect poorly on the entire foreign-qualified lawyer community in Japan.

    I also know that the Roppongi Bar Association, the social organization of international attorneys based in Tokyo with a 27 year history, refuses to deal with him after a breakdown in reasonable communication when he founded his Kansai organization. The man simply cannot be reasoned with, on any level.

    I want to make one comment in response to this:

    “The biggest irony here is that we’re talking about lawyers. They’re quite willing to sell their services to the highest bidder. But it appears that some of them aren’t willing to pay for the services that will further the interests of their organization, and their own professional and educational experience and credentials.”

    That’s unfair. Yes, some of us work for commercial interests at very high hourly rates. However, most of us pledge our services free of charge, even at personal expense, to help out clients who we believe have valid causes. And some of us dedicate our entire careers to this very noble cause.

    The cautionary note here is not that lawyers are rich — simply not true — but that we live by the fundamentals of contract law. If there was no firm agreement to make payment or reimburse expenses, or if the amount is never specified, then there is no legal obligation to make payment. I think this is important to note for everyone.

    That being said, this is no excuse for the behavior of Mac Allen, his recent employment termination and possible financial hardships notwithstanding, as reimbursing basic expenses is a customary standard. I’m sorry you had to deal with this scoundrel — but now, like many of us, you’ve been burned, and are not yet another person on a very long list who will refuse to work with him ever again.

  • I always have received compensation in Japan, at minimum local travel expenses. However if they said they weren’t paying ahead of time, then it is not them who are in the wrong.

    Most people will present at academic affairs for free and expect nothing except a chance to put it on their resume.

    — I certainly disagree with the last assertion, which is neither grounded in any evidence nor found in my experience of doing (to date) 191 presentations both in Japan and overseas.

  • I think that it might be helpful to distinguish between “academic conferences,” “business conferences,” and “invited lectures (or solicited speeches)”. These are three or four very distinct things with distinct audiences and procedures.

    In my experience, academic conferences in Europe, North America and Japan are designed for feedback purposes and networking only. Tony is correct. You submit an idea to an upcoming conference. If you’re lucky, they accept your proposal. Sometimes, you are then required to have your paper blind-reviewed for quality control before it is accepted. After it is accepted, however, you present to the conference for feedback. Usually, academic conferences are designed for graduate students, institute-affiliated researchers and university professors who are either in the process of writing a doctoral dissertation or a book manuscript for an academic press. The idea that one should expect remuneration for presenting at an academic conference is bizarre. The most you could hope for is funding from your own institution in the form of a travel grant. Try demanding remuneration from the American Political Science Association (APSA) or the International Studies Association (ISA) or any major academic conference. They’ll quickly think you don’t understand the purpose of an academic conference.

    The second type is the business conference. This is slightly different. Business conferences by definition are designed for the membership. They have agendas, topics, and programs. You can’t really generalize. If you are lucky enough to appear on a panel or deliver a speech, you might get paid and paid really well. Then again, you might not. It depends entirely on the budget and nature of the business conference. I was invited to speak at several business conferences over the years. Sometimes the honor of speaking there was enough; sometimes I was paid handsomely. Would I have welcomed money if offered? Of course. But the one thing I would never do is publicly bad mouth the organization. Getting continued speaking gigs, jobs and protecting business reputations is important for most of us. I agree completely with Peter on that score.

    The third type is the invited lecture or speech. In the message above, Peter calls it a “mixed bag.” He’s right. It is. There is no standard honorarium for speaking engagements in Japan or elsewhere. Some universities, think tanks, and law firms will pay you. Some won’t. It depends on the topic and the location. Does it matter? Not really, in my opinion. Linebreak talks about the role of activists versus lecturers in post #9 above. I think that’s a helpful distinction. Debito, you market yourself as an activist not a business executive or lawyer whose professional occupation happens to be human rights. I think an activist who is not looking to make a living off of the topic, would likely welcome the opportunity to address a forum for free in order to discuss the issues.

    When I looked through the 191 different speeches, etc. on your resume, I couldn’t identify any academic conferences in the traditional sense of the word. I saw a few that might look like business conferences. The rest appeared to be invited (or mainly solicited?) speeches.

    — You didn’t look all that hard, then. And I don’t think you considered the nature of the invitation from (repeat, from) the JLS all that carefully, either. I’ve done enough of these for “free” (and even the invites that were “free” all reimbursed me at least 5000 yen, as I said; that’s just good professional manners).

    In any case, thanks for the spectral analysis of the market.

  • As members of KARA (Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad) we would like you to know our organization has nothing to do with Mr. S. McIntire ALLEN (源 眞久) and the Japan Law Society which he established. We have published a disclaimer to that effect on our Yahoo Groups Homepage, the relevant portions of which are reproduced below.

    “The moderators and members of Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad (KARA) wish to
    make clear that there is no connection between our group and Japan Law Society.
    Specifically Japan Law Society, which formerly also confusingly used the name
    Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad, has absolutely no connection with us
    We apologize for any confusion. Differing philosophies among various members
    regarding the purpose and agenda of our respective groups have caused this
    apparent split.”

    Indeed, Mr. Debito, we sympathize with your position. As Curzon states in post #20

    “sorry you had to deal with this _________ — but now, like many of us, you’ve been burned, and are not (sic) yet another person on a very long list who will refuse to work with him ever again.”

    Without getting into the merits of your dispute with JLS (there appear to be some unanswered questions and compelling arguments on both sides of the issue) we would like to acknowledge your public service and activism. We would also, however, ask that you remove the “AKA Kansai Attorneys Registered Abroad” reference on your November 29 post. Our name was hijacked by Mr. Allen and your unfortunate dealings with him were without our knowledge or approval.

    Thank you,

    Concerned KARA members

    — Will do.

  • I suppose another moral of this story is that we cannot make asumptions about what is customary in Japan anymore. Things like “It is rude to ask about written contracts or to check payment for mistakes”.C ome to think of it, the people who took me to task on both of the above were in fact an American and an Australian, the latter claiming that it was impossible to have a written agreement for work done in the (Japanese, music recording) industry.

    A case of rose-tinted glasses perhaps. Or, the cynic in me now thinks certain people here have used this for a long time as an excuse to rip off naive NJs.

    We can just look after ourselves, make sure we get paid, and if this ruffles a few feathers by breaching a few “traditionalists'” idea of decorum in this allegedly “unique” society then bad luck to them. Bad business practice is bad business practice.


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