Young ICCA Webinars: Tips from the Top: An Interview with Ms. Yoshimi Ohara
Ms. Ohara has kindly agreed to participate in a fireside chat and answer questions from Young ICCA members and young practitioners on a series of themes:
- Building a career in International Arbitration
- Standout career moments
- Diversity in International Arbitration
- Tips on how to get your first oral pleading experience
Watch the full interview below.
Post Event Report
by Ashley Chandler, Associate, Jones Day*
On 3 July 2020, Young ICCA welcomed esteemed Japanese arbitration practitioner, Yoshimi Ohara, Partner at Nagashima Ohno & Tsunematsu in Tokyo and a member of the ICCA Governing Board.
Global Events Director Rahul Donde discussed with Ms Ohara how she built this impressive career and her advice for budding practitioners. Ms Ohara explained that her first exposure to arbitration came through her intellectual property practice. She was fascinated by the experience, particularly for the efficiency and neutrality it offered in comparison to litigation to parties from different jurisdictions. Many of her clients also preferred it and their increased demand allowed Ms Ohara to specialise in arbitration.
Ms Ohara also advised aspiring arbitration practitioners to develop skills in other dispute resolution methods. In her view, counsel’s role is to offer options to clients, whether arbitration, mediation, conciliation or simply settlement discussions. Ms Ohara recommended studying international mediation and spoke fondly of her own LL.M. She recommended that participants study in a jurisdiction with a different legal tradition from their own so as to better understand differing approaches. She also advised that subject matter expertise is useful in quickly identifying issues, pointing to how her corporate law and IP background has assisted her.
Events Coordinator Saemee Kim then spoke with Ms Ohara about the soft skills that she considers necessary to succeed in international arbitration. Ms Ohara encouraged participants to take a client-centric approach to their practice and to be creative. She spoke of the importance of being proactive and encouraged participants to embrace opportunities that come their way. Ms Ohara shared her first oral pleading experience as an example. Ms Ohara was asked at the last minute to assist in cross-examining the Japanese law expert in an arbitration and embraced the excellent, albeit daunting, opportunity. Ms Ohara graciously described the cross-examination as ‘awful’, but given her client’s ultimate success, the participants were not convinced!
Following questions from Events Coordinator Masaki Kawasaki, Ms Ohara counselled participants to be flexible in oral advocacy, to think of the hearing as a sports game where anything can happen and to be ready to adapt and take the best shot in the moment. She highlighted the crucial importance of thorough preparation, which she has sometimes seen lacking when sitting as arbitrator due to counsel’s apparent complacency with their written submissions.
Ms Ohara shared that her greatest professional challenges have been achieving a work-life balance and building strong teams. Ms Ohara emphasised the importance of communication and offering assistance in team-building and suggested that practitioners with young families should accept help in their personal lives and refrain from making unhelpful comparisons against colleagues.
Ms Ohara expressed a positive outlook on diversity in international arbitration, stating that the issues are not insurmountable and that she has seen significant progress in her 25-year career. She also spoke admiringly of the many role models for women aspiring to a career in international arbitration who have assisted her professionally and personally.
In terms of linguistic diversity, Ms Ohara acknowledged the continuing importance of English but advocated the advantage held by non-native English speakers. They can better understand and appreciate, and hence offer solutions to, the language challenges inevitably encountered in international arbitration.
Finally, Ms Ohara shared some of her personal interests, confessing that she is at heart a person of food and art. When travelling abroad she enjoys visiting the local markets, museums and old buildings to better understand the country and its culture.
Participants likewise enjoyed the opportunity to better understand Ms Ohara and her career. All were incredibly grateful to Ms Ohara for her open and amiable approach to the interview and will certainly benefit from her insights and advice.
*The views and opinions set forth in this article are the personal views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Jones Day.
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