Kazuko Sawada, LL.M. Class of 2011

As of June 2011

Kazuko Sawada

LL.M.

Ms. Sawada's current position is Senior Vice President at the Global Business & Alternative Investment Headquarters of ORIX Corporation. We talked to her about her experiences of balancing work, home life and study over the four years she spent studying for a Master of Laws (LL.M.) at the Temple University School of Law.

Tell us about the content of your work.

As the head of the legal team for the overseas investment unit, I am responsible for all legal matters directly relating to overseas investment in my department. In specific terms we verify, correct and approve all contracts relating to the work of the aviation, shipping, corporate finance, business development, marketing and operations management teams, to ensure that they have been compiled in accordance with the content of the written proposals approved by the investment and financing committees. We are also responsible for negotiations and consultations with executive officers, sales and marketing personnel and lawyers.

Was it always your aim to have a career in legal affairs?

Although I graduated with a degree in law from university, after graduation I decided I wanted to study design, and I studied clothing design at the Kuwasawa Design School and interior design at the Caro Interior Design Institute. In my late twenties, I decided to follow my dream of becoming a stage artist and spent one year studying drama in the Master's degree program at San Francisco State University. During that time I had various experiences through part-time jobs in local theaters and also in costume design and lighting. However, upon getting married, I decided to leave the world of performance art, which includes a great deal of work in the evening and late at night. I returned to the world of law as it provided a job that would enable me to balance my life bringing up two young daughters. I completed a paralegal course and got a job as a clerk in the litigation department of the San Francisco offices of Baker & McKenzie. From then on I acquired various experiences through work as a paralegal at a number of law firms in the United States.

Although you started your legal career in a law office, you are now employed by a business corporation.

Yes, that's true. After returning home to Japan in 1992 to nurse my mother, I spent a number of years working in the offices of an overseas law firm, but I wanted to learn how business projects are actually created and put together in companies. I also wanted to learn about other practical matters after a project has been put together, and so I changed jobs, moving to a business corporation with the aim of honing my skills. After working at a number of companies, including BNP Paribas Securities Co., Ltd., ING Securities, ABN Amro Securities, Citadel Investment Group (Asia) Ltd., and Cerberus Japan KK, I joined ORIX Corporation in 2006. Since then I have been consistently involved in legal affairs, mainly engaged in transaction lawyer-type work (working with sales and marketing from the project compilation stage through to the formulation of contracts and the closing of the deal).

Why did you seek to acquire an LL.M.?

While living in America I really wanted to acquire an LL.M. and qualify as a lawyer. However, various circumstances prevented me from doing this and the only choice I had was to complete a paralegal course, which can be finished in a short period of time. As my children had grown up and found jobs of their own, I decided that for work purposes I would need the equivalent knowledge of a practicing lawyer at the very least, and so I returned to graduate school. That I was happily able to acquire an LL.M. is something that is very important for me.

What did you find most difficult in the course of your studies towards gaining an LL.M.?

My main worry was whether my old brain would be able to keep up with my young and energetic fellow students! But I have always liked to maintain a keen and enquiring character, and as the lectures were interesting and held my interest, as time passed, I would like to think that the other students didn't bother so much about my age. My busy schedule meant that I could not devote enough of my time to home life and for a time my daughters were against me studying, but in the end all my family supported me through to graduation.

Has gaining an LL.M. brought about any changes to your working life?

More than anything it has given me confidence. In my daily work I am always required to make decisions, and thanks to the firm grounding the LL.M. has given me I am now more comfortable making these decisions with strong resolve and confidence. Given the unflinching nature of my decisions, the sales and marketing department has sent me further requests causing my work load to increase, so I sometimes feel that I have put the noose around my own neck!

Tell us about your dreams and aspirations.

I have lived a full and rewarding life up to now, and before I die, I would like to repay in some form those people who have supported me along the way (although there are some people who have already passed away), and also assist the people who have been affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake. My dream is to think about how I can do that, in whatever form it may take, and actually set about doing it.