A month before the coronavirus pandemic was declared in March, I had the privilege of being the only Welsh delegate on the first trade mission to Tokyo, Japan, which was led by Law Society president Simon Davis. The mission enabled us to work with the Dai-Ichi Tokyo Bar Association to give Law Society members the opportunity to gain a better understanding and insight into the Japanese legal market.

Kathryn Devonald-Davies

Kathryn Devonald-Davies

The mission meant too that we could experience every aspect of the Japanese legal system, ranging from meeting law firms and the Japanese Federation of Bar Associations to visiting the Supreme Court.

Every single meeting taught me something new and gave me concepts that I wanted to develop in my own firm in Wales. I feel that it is important that we use other countries and their best practice as resources and foundations upon which we can develop our legal system.

Education and technology

During my time in Tokyo, I was also hosted by the dean of the faculty of global informatics at Chuo University. This faculty is one of a kind as it fuses information and communication technology studies (ICT) with ICT’s ethical, legal and social impacts. It aims to equip students with both an international understanding of and the professional skills needed to navigate the intersection between information systems and law in today’s globally connected societies.

This bold move by Chuo University is one that our universities need to consider. I have always been an advocate for our academic institutions to work closer with the legal profession and its faculties such as this which form that much needed bridge.

As part of the mission programme, we visited two of the leading law firms – Atsumi & Sakai, where we discussed the provision of local support to global clients – and Nagashima, Ohno & Tsunematsu, one of the foremost providers of international and commercial legal services in Japan. These meetings provided me with food for thought on how to develop the international provision that we offer our clients and ways to improve that client experience.

AI is the way forward

Next, we visited the Supreme Court of Japan and spent a wonderful afternoon in conversation with Justice Kohichi Kusano, where we discussed judicial proceedings in Japan, the challenges facing the Judiciary in the country and his love and appreciation of English (and now Welsh) literature.

One of the highlights of the mission was the joint seminar, which was co-hosted by the Dai-Ichi Tokyo Bar Association, the Tokyo Chamber of Commerce and the Japan External Trade Organisation (JETRO).

A breadth of topics were debated and I delivered a talk on the importance on us as lawyers in developing and using artificial intelligence (AI) systems in the workplace. I also spoke at length about my firm’s AI initiative, ‘Siwm’AI.’ which executes real-time analytics and machine learning.

A number of lasting and mutual beneficial connections were made during the Law Society’s first trade mission to Japan, while bridges were built, and friendships were formed.

Against the background of imminent trade talks and the renewed focus on improving market access for UK businesses after the UK leaves the EU, the mission provided an important reminder of what opportunities are on offer outside of the UK’s borders.


Kathryn Devonald-Davies, DPA Law