NYSBA Enters Into Historic Agreement With Osaka Bar Association

By Brandon Vogel

Osaka Bar Association

The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) and the Osaka Bar Association (OBA) entered a “Memorandum of Friendship” during a virtual event on the evening of June 4 (June 5 in Osaka). The accord formalizes the relationship the two associations.

Kazuto Yamamoto, chair of OBA’s International Committee, was master of ceremonies for the signing. Seiji Morinobu, chair of the Research Team to EU and US, Judicial Reform Verification and Promotion Headquarters, and NYSBA President T. Andrew Brown delivered the opening remarks.

“The signing of the document is but the beginning of a strong friendship that will benefit and grow both of our historic and important organizations,” said Brown.

He said also that NYSBA and OBA share many collective ideals and values and that OBA has organized symposiums on international law, is active on human rights issues, and advocates for the wellbeing and integrity of the legal profession in Japan.

“This, I think, shows the importance of a bar association to its members – and the support that organizations such as ours can play in advocating for and supporting lawyers,” said Brown.

Hiroshi Tanaka, OBA’s President, signed the agreement, as did Edward K. Lenci, chair of NYSBA’s International Section and a partner of Hinshaw & Culbertson. Before signing, Lenci addressed the audience in Japanese about the friendships he had made in Japan and his hope to make new ones. Lenci studied at ICU in Japan in 1985-86 and worked as a summer intern in 1988 at Mori, Hamada & Matsumoto, one of Japan’s “Big Four” law firms.

The two bar associations virtually exchanged gifts. OBA gave NYSBA an embroidery with the image of Aka-Fuji (Mt. Fuji lit by red sunlight). NYSBA gave OBA a crystal apple by Tiffany & Co., NYSBA’s traditional gift.

Katsuhisa Masuda, chair, OBA Committee for the Study of Digitalization of the Civil Procedure, and Hon. Sidney H. Stein, U.S. District Judge, S.D.N.Y., delivered the keynote addresses.

Afterward, Kazuhiko Nishihara, managing partner of Honmachi International Law Office, led the symposium “How Did And Will the Judiciary Overcome the COVID-19 Crisis.” The panelists included Judge Stein and Hon. Jun Hayashi, presiding judge, Osaka District Court, 3rd Civil Affairs Department.  Among the topics discussed were the status of digitalization in Japan’s courts and how U.S. federal courts handled COVID-19.

The impetus for entering the agreement arose during an OBA fact-finding mission in 2019. The delegation was in New York to gather data on digitalization in U.S. courts. Lenci and former Section Chair Neil Quartaro (Cozen & O’Connor), gave the delegates a crash course on the U.S. judicial system and accompanied the delegates on their court visits.

NYSBA has entered into many such agreements with bar associations around the world, mostly recently with the Milan Bar Association and also with the Dai-Ichi Tokyo Bar Association in 2019.

NYSBA, a voluntary bar association with over 70,000 members, has members in all 50 states and in over 100 countries. The International Section has over 60 chapters around the world.

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