Bar Association says martinis and legal advice a bad mix

A martini with two olives and a dash of legal advice? That’s the plan of a Tokyo lawyer who wants to open a bar where he would serve up both drinks and counsel, but the Daini Tokyo Bar Association is calling it a bad mix.

According to 29-year-old attorney Jun Sotooka, the idea first came from his friend, a 33-year-old systems developer, and the pair set up a parent corporation in August.

Under the plan, the company would team up with a restaurateur and open a location in Tokyo close to a major train station. Lawyers would work as bartenders, and would take the customers into a separate room to talk if they sought legal advice. The advice would be pro bono, while in order to attract a solid customer base, Sotooka had hoped to bring about 10 people into the business, including women.

“If you look for a lawyer after something happens, it’s too late,” says Sotooka. “You feel relieved if you can talk to someone you have a real affinity for, so the bar is a good place to meet for both the lawyer and the client.”

However, the Daini Tokyo Bar Association — of which Sotooka is a member — has demanded the plan be put on hold, saying that it amounts to legal referrals for profit — a violation of the Lawyers Act.

“Having drunk clients getting legal counsel spells trouble,” says Yoshiyuki Ajioka, the bar association’s vice president. “It is also an offense to dignity.”

A determined Sotooka responds: “The provisions of the act have malicious brokers in mind, and there is no conflict (with those provisions) in this plan. If that’s not recognized, then we will openly let society decide.”