Talent Management, Career Coaching,
Inclusion & Diversity
Pamela: Hi, my name is Pamela DeNeuve and welcome to Lawyer of the Week. Today I’m very pleased to interview Maurice Rabb, who is in Japan- in Tokyo.
And let me tell you a little bit about Maurice. Maurice received his undergraduate degree from Georgetown and his JD from Berkley. He is the founder of the Tokyo Chapter of Legal Hackers, a global movement exploring and developing creative solutions to some of the most pressing issues at the intersection of law and technology.
Maurice is also a board member of TELL Japan, a Japanese NPO dedicated to providing effective support and counseling services to Japan’s international community and its increasing mental health needs. Welcome, Maurice.
Maurice: Hello. Hello, Pamela. Thank you.
Pamela: So, how’s the weather there in Japan?
Maurice: Well, this morning- it’s morning here in Tokyo- it’s snowing. It’s- I think it’s gonna turn into another snowstorm.
Pamela: Another snowstorm, okay. So, you’ve had a few this year?
Maurice: Yeah, we’ve had a few. We had one last week and now another one today.
Pamela: Okay, all right. So, do you have like winter clothes and boots and all that there, or no?
Maurice: Absolutely not. Once, before I moved here, I was in California and I didn’t need any winter clothes there. It’s not as cold as it is, you know, from Chicago, which is where I’m originally from. So, yes, I think I can- I think I can handle this weather.
Pamela: Right. Yeah, we have those two things in common- Chicago area and I lived in Los Angeles for 17 years- Los Angeles area.
Pamela: Were you in Northern California?
Maurice: Both. So, I lived in California- LA- after I graduated from Georgetown and lived there for a few years, before the first time I came to Japan. And then, when I went to- you know- when I went to law school, I lived in Northern California.
Pamela: Oh, okay. And then, from LA- from Northern California, you went back to Japan?
Maurice: Yeah, came straight here after law school and haven’t left since.
Pamela: And you’ve been there how many years now?
Maurice: 11 years.
Pamela: 11 years.
Maurice: So, when I first graduated from Georgetown- and then got my JD from Berkeley, I came out and was a corporate lawyer for Morrison and Foerster in the Tokyo office and practiced there for about six years.
Then I left and worked for an NPO- education NPO here in Tokyo- for a few years, and then I worked for a Japanese law firm for two years, and went back to MoFo to run the Attorney Recruiting and Development, and then recently just launched my own HR recruiting consultancy.
Pamela: Wow, that’s really exciting! So, let me ask you the Lawyer of the Week questions. The first one is: When and what made you decide to switch from practicing law to HR, learning development and coaching?
Maurice: Right, right. So, for me actually, my first career was teaching. So, I started after university. I did Teach for America for two years, and then came and taught in Japan for a few years. So, I guess the foundation of my work- or the foundation of my career- was always education.
And even when I started at MoFo, I was working a lot with lawyers to try to help them learn and develop, and it was something that I really enjoyed doing. And what really sort of made that huge switch was having an opportunity to work for the NPO.
So, I left the firm to help start the NPO, and doing the work there, I was doing a lot of recruiting, and coaching, and team-building and really just helping people develop, and decided- you know, this is an area where I’d like to devote the rest of my career and most of my career. So, combining my passion for law with my passion for also helping people develop.
Pamela: Yes, yes. Can you explain- because maybe some of the audience may not really understand what an NPO is?
Maurice: Right. So, NPO is a nonprofit organization. And these are types of organizations that usually have some type of social cause, or it can be a governmental organization, that it makes revenue but any of its revenue, it puts back into the organization.
So, no shareholders, no profit given to shareholders. A lot of the money for NPO’s either comes from donations, or grants, or types of funding- public funding or private funding- from organizations and corporations.
Pamela: Interesting. So, can I just ask you- like, why Japan?
Maurice: Yeah, why Japan? So, actually, in university, I was actually more of a China guy, so I studied Chinese and lived in China during my university years, and knew that I wanted to do something in Asia. But after I did Teach for America for a few years, I had the opportunity to come over to Japan and do some teaching and work here, and sort of made the move over to Japan, and lived here for a few years.
When I left, I didn’t necessarily plan on coming back to Japan. I knew I would probably do something in the region, but talking to different law firms and seeing what the opportunities were, I came across MoFo, which has a very strong Japan
presence, and I liked the people, I liked the culture of the firm.
So, I had an opportunity to come here and start my career in Tokyo. So, that’s what- that’s why I came over. And the initial plan was just to be here for a few years and then head over to China, but the Lehman shock happened during the first years when I was here, and the economy wasn’t so strong globally, and China just took a different trajectory. So, I just ended up staying here longer, and working at the NPO, and just building up a good network of people, so- so, so far, I’m still here.
Pamela: That’s great, that’s really great. I was just thinking, you know, my son- when he was in undergrad school, they were doing the changeover from- in Hong Kong, over to Chinese- to China rule. And he wanted to be over there- I think it was the year after the changeover- and that’s when he fell in love with Asia. So, I
could understand- you know people who haven’t experienced it may not understand how important, you know, living in Asia can be in your life, and very, very enriching.
Maurice: I’ve loved it so far.
Pamela: And also developing your brainwaves, as you continue to switch from English to Japanese- to Chinese, in your case. So, we try to encourage peak performance, and what are some of the obstacles, would you say, that you had to overcome to become successful?
Maurice: Well, for me, one major one is culture. A lot of my career has been in a foreign culture- in a foreign land, and being here, learning how to speak Japanese, learning the customs, learning the norms, and also being in a tough profession, having to learn that, too.
So, trying to learn how to be a lawyer, and then later how to be a good HR, or learning development professional, and also trying to do it within a culture that doesn’t- that I didn’t grow up in, and that I had to learn to adjust and learn to be comfortable with. So, that’s sort of the big picture. The, sort of, current obstacles is the kind of work that I’m doing with lawyers, particularly. Even in the U.S., lawyers tend to be resistant to change.
Pamela: Yes, absolutely.
Maurice: They have certain habits and have certain behaviors that they get used to you and that have worked for them in the past, and sometimes think it’ll continue to work. Well, obviously, that’s no exception in Japan, and given that Japan, also by culture, is a risk-averse culture. So, you take a very conservative group that is resistant to change, and then you’re in a very conservative, or risk-averse culture, and trying to talk about innovation, or trying to talk about developing different types of skill sets, or learning different types of behaviors-
I call it 21st-century learning- it can be difficult, and it can be challenging, and there are a few projects that I’ve been working on for four years and just now starting to get more traction, particularly among the Japanese. But I’m resilient, and so I won’t give up, because I think learning and development is so important, and I think that in the end, they’ll thank me for being resilient and pushing them.
Pamela: Absolutely. Just as an aside, you know, in the United States, I don’t know if you’ve heard about the Taskforce for Lawyer Well-Being and the report, and statistics-?
Pamela: You have heard of that?
Maurice: Yes, yes.
Pamela: How do you find the case- do you have the same problems in Japan that in the U.S.- with the depression, anxiety, and substance abuse?
Maurice: Certainly. And the mental wellness- and just general wellness- is the reason I joined the NPO. And that was, given that it is an increasing issue here, just like it is in other parts of the world- both for youth and for regular workers, and for bengoshi- or- bengoshi is lawyer in Japanese.
So, it’s also very, very difficult for them, too- and to have an effect on that, and have an impact, I joined the board of TELL Japan, which really focuses on having mental wellness for the English-speaking community in Japan, but we also do work for the Japanese community- and so, yeah, it is an issue, and it’s something that, you know, I think about every day- and I’m involved in trying to help raise awareness, and help find solutions for helping people have good wellness.
Pamela: Well, that’s really a wonderful commitment to have and I’m sure that it takes a lot of commitment and determination to stay with it, when a lot of times it’s not easy.
Pamela: So, what advice would you give someone who’s struggling or facing difficulty in reaching their goals?
Maurice: Right. I would say one thing is really try to get a sense of what their vision is, and spend a little bit of time maybe doing some self-evaluation, exploring their values, exploring their vision, exploring kind of, where they want to go and where they are now.
And then, find the right support system to help you grow that- and- because no man is an island, and we do need a community, so I think it’s good to have a sense of what your vision is, and where you want to go and then have people- friends, family, mentors, sponsors- a variety of people who can help you- both encourage you to get there, and sometimes challenge you, and make you think hard and reevaluate approaches that you may or may not want to take.
Pamela: Sounds like the wise words of someone who’s a coach.
Maurice: When coaching, I try to listen and help the client- really help them bring out their path, and figure out their- use their strengths to go where they need to go.
Pamela: Yes, and if you’re like me, my clients hold me to the wire, and they say, “Okay, are you walking the talk, too?”
Pamela: So, it’s really important, you know- and I- someone said- they asked Oprah how many coaches she had and she said four. So, yes, I surround myself with a few, as well. So, what legacy would you like to leave Maurice?
Maurice: In terms of legacy, for me, I would like to know that I left the world a better place than when I came into. And a lot of activities that I do, and interactions that I have is- am I making the world a better place? The people that I’m interacting with- am I enriching their lives or am I bringing more pain and misery into their lives?
So, for me, at the end of the day- or at the end of my days- I want people to look back and say, “Yes, he really did make the world a better place and here are some concrete examples of places where he’s influenced people, or influenced organizations, or cultures.” So, if I can do that and leave that to the world, then I think I’ve done a pretty good job.
Pamela: That’s wonderful. So, do you- are there any, I guess Americans- is there a pretty large American community there?
Pamela: American lawyers, ex-Pats?
Maurice: Right. In terms of lawyers, of the foreign lawyers, or non-Japanese lawyers, I would say the majority of them are from the U.S., or U.S. qualified. And the thing I do love about Japan is, I just have so many different communities and I do have American community, so I have, you know, Americans I’ll go watch the Super Bowl on Monday- it’s Monday morning in Japan- so I’ll go watch the Super Bowl on Monday morning at one of the bases with my American friends.
But I also have a lot of friends from other parts of the world, which is, you know, from various countries in Africa, I have friends from South America, from Europe, of course I have a lot of Japanese friends, and other Asian friends.
So, Tokyo is such a cosmopolitan city, where you can have really a variety. And some of my friends are ex-Pat’s, some of them are local workers, you know a variety of types of jobs, so it’s something that I really appreciate about living here and one of the things that makes it hard to leave.
Pamela: Oh, I can imagine. I’m sure that that’s really very enriching to have such- so much diversity and different- learning about different people’s cultures, and things like that. So, name one thing that you do, Maurice, to manage your stress levels.
Maurice: I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the question.
Pamela: Name one thing that you do to manage your stress.
Maurice: Oh, yes. So, there are two major things that I like to do to manage stress. The first one is go to the Japanese hot springs, or the Japanese bath. They’re just a lot here, near Tokyo, and several hours, a train ride away. So, I try to go at least once a month, or once every other month- go and bathe, and relax, get into nature, and see- and just sort of have good Japanese food, and relax. So, that’s something that I regularly do to manage stress. And then the other is, support system- different friends and family, talk with them- and I have different friends- or different people- I can talk to for different types of stress and really be open.
And that’s something, particularly working with the NPO, I realized, you know, you have to talk it, and talk through it, and really share- if you have pain, or if you have stress, share that with you know, people close to you, people who will listen. So, that’s something. I’m not afraid of talking. I don’t have any problems talking, so that really helps to release my stress, and it helps me maintain a balanced life.
Pamela: Well, that sounds wonderful. Well, Maurice, we really appreciate you being our Lawyer of the Week.
Maurice: Thank you.
Pamela: And yes, be careful out there in the snow- snow in Tokyo.
Maurice: Right. Thank you so much.
Pamela: And to our audience, thank you so much for joining us on Lawyer of the Week. We hope to see you again next week.