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Catherine O’Connell

Principal & Founder
Catherine O’Connell Law
Australian & New Zealand Chamber of Commerce

Hometown: Christchurch, New Zealand

Number of years in Japan (cumulative): 16 (as of November 2018)

Catherine O’Connell
Q1: What was your first encounter with Japan?

In 1985, I won a New Zealand-wide Japanese speech competition and first prize was a trip to Japan. I spent two weeks traveling around, falling in love with Japan — what I had studied in textbooks suddenly came to life. I next visited with my Japanese class to a New Zealand fair in Kurumayama Kogen (Nagano), where I worked in a restaurant learning about Japanese omotenashi (hospitality) service.

Q2: Please state your motto in life and why you have chosen it.

To have enough to live comfortably and spend my money on doing things — not accumulating things. When I am old and look back on my life, I want to be able to have plenty of memories and experiences of family and friends, to recall and laugh about that make me happy and content. I don’t want stuff to clutter my life and mind.

Q3 : Over your career, what achievement are you the proudest of?

Pioneering as the first Japanese-speaking female lawyer in a New Zealand law firm and first non-Japanese female lawyer to launch a solo practice in Japan are proud achievements. I strongly believe having parents who never said, “You can’t do that,” allowed me to do this. But my proudest moment as a lawyer was when a whistle-blower employee told me they raised their hand with courage because they could trust me.

Q4 : What are your goals during your time in Japan, your current position or in life?

I want to leave people in a better position than they were in before they met me. I want to help businesses have access to diverse, cost-effective, flexible and innovative legal services providers who embrace new technologies like AI to reduce inefficiencies. By slowly disrupting the Japan legal services market with flexible secondments/contract lawyers, business owners will have a genuine selection of solution providers for their legal challenges.

Q5 : What wisdom, advice or tips can you give to people living and working in Japan?

Building a network of genuine relationships based on trust is absolutely essential for success in Japan. All my legal work comes from referrals within two degrees of separation in my network. Connect beyond receiving meishi (business cards) at events, take a real interest in people and follow up on what you promise to do. Connect people together. If you know someone who should meet someone else to strengthen their business then don’t hold back — introduce and connect them without seeking anything for that. They will remember you and do the same for you.

Last updated: Nov 19, 2018