Oxford University ー Spring break flew by, and before I knew it, the cherry blossoms were blooming, marking the beginning of the new school year. Three weeks have passed since the new year, and I have settled back into my regular routine – this time with fewer courses, thankfully! I recently received the pictures from a research trip I took part in and thought now would be a good time to share them!
Earlier this year, in February, I was approached by a professor at the Law School who I had worked with before about going to Oxford with him to help with his research. He focuses on bankruptcy law and is looking into ways Japan can adjust its existing laws to meet the needs of the modern world. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity and boarded a plane for Oxford in March.
The details of my job were quite vague and it was mentioned that I would be assisting with easing the language barrier by interpreting in informal settings – there would be a professional interpreter with us the whole time for the formal meetings. Or so I was told… the day before leaving, I was informed that this was no longer the case and that I would be the interpreter. At the same time, I was given a legal report and a few hundred pages of reading material to be translated within the next two days. Needless to say, my first few hours in Oxford were spent at the desk in my hotel room poring over documents and running last minute checks on the translations.
The biggest challenge we faced was that the Japanese and British legal systems (in regard to bankruptcy and other areas) are completely different. Text needed to be added to explain concepts that only exist in Japan, drawing comparisons to similar concepts in the English-speaking legal world. Somehow, against all odds, I was able to send the report in 45 minutes before our first set of meetings.
The professor I was accompanying was a Visiting Fellow at Merton College, the oldest college at Oxford, and the campus was absolutely spectacular. Oxford had just enjoyed a week of high temperatures and so the cherry blossom trees were blooming, the grass was green, and despite rain most days, the weather was pleasant. We took advantage of this by touring around the campus during our off time. We even got an inside look at the Merton library which was like a scene from the movies.
The rest of the week was spent meeting professors from Oxford and around the world to discuss credit and securities. At first, I wasn’t particularly interested in this area of law, but as I learned more about it, I realized how much of an impact it has on business in Japan and the significance of culture and history when it comes to developing legal systems.
We also visited the London offices of Baker McKenzie, one of the largest law firms in the world. There we spoke with a Japanese lawyer who has been practicing in London for the past three years. It was interesting hearing about the role that technology plays in the everyday business of the firm. Due to the firm’s global nature, webinars and teleconferences make up the majority of meetings, legal research is done with the help of a sophisticated digital library, and legal translations with the help of AI.
The rest of our time was spent attending lectures hosted by the Faculty of Law. The first was about private equity and how it influences markets around the world. We heard from investment bankers and lawyers and had the chance to see students interacting with the lecturers throughout. This was particularly interesting for my professor, coming from a country where students are hesitant to ask questions, let alone question an expert in their own field. This cultural difference was further displayed at a meeting to review a report on Self-Driving Companies (companies with a board that is run by AI). Experts from various fields came together to question the content of the report from all angles. Again, this is something that is missing from most educational institutions in Japan.
The whole trip wasn’t spent working, and I had a chance to get out and explore a little bit of Oxford and London. One day, I was joined by a close friend from France who is now living in Cambridge. We attended the same high school in Miyazaki, and it had been years since we last met. I think we walked down every single street in Oxford (some multiple times…) and walked a total of 20km. I also reconnected with a friend from North Bay who is studying London as a Rotary Grant Scholar.
Although the ten days went by incredibly quickly, it was a wonderful experience to get to learn more about the law and Oxford University. My language abilities were tested day after day, and I think my hair is even more grey than before, but it is all worth it. There are now talks about some professors coming to visit us in Japan in the next few months, so it looks my schedule will be full again very soon!