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Professor Who Knows Both Legal Systems Takes Up Terasaki Chair in US-Japanese Relations
Photo by Lorena Olvera

Professor Who Knows Both Legal Systems Takes Up Terasaki Chair in US-Japanese Relations

Daniel Foote, Chair in Sociology of Law at the University of Tokyo, is the sixth scholar to hold this one-year appointment at UCLA.

By Lorena Olvera

I think I was the first full-time foreign employee of Nissan Motors

When Daniel Foote joined the University of Tokyo law faculty in 2000, he knew better than to believe stereotypes about the students. Some colleagues had told him not to expect Japanese students to speak and debate freely in class.

“I had seen classes that were very interactive, and I went in knowing it could be achieved,” Foote said. He discovered that students wanted the opportunity to interact and designed his courses to encourage them.

Foote, who is Chair in Sociology of Law at his university, arrived at UCLA in early August to become the sixth Terasaki Chair in U.S.-Japan Relations, a one-year visiting professorship.

During his time in Los Angeles, Foote will pursue ongoing research and writing about judicial reform in Japan, work that he is drafting for an American audience. He will also continue translating his work Nameless Faceless Justice, originally published in Japanese. Foote has many publications in both languages.

Currently, he is teaching a fall semester course on Japanese Law at the law school. He will teach a political science course at the undergraduate level in Winter Quarter and deliver a lecture as part of the Terasaki Center's 2009-10 colloquium series.

He graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to clerk for one year at the district court level and then another year for Chief Justice Warren Burger. He went to Japan on a Fulbright fellowship and with a letter of introduction from Chief Justice Burger to Japanese Chief Justice Terada. Soon the young American lawyer had access to the Japanese Supreme Court building and a desk in the Library; on his Fulbright at the University of Tokyo, he spent 21 months studying Japan’s judicial system.

Before beginning his teaching career, Foote worked in New York City for O’Melveny & Meyers, an L.A.-based international firm, and for Nissan Motors in Tokyo.

“I think I was the first full-time foreign employee of Nissan Motors…. They had hired a foreigner that started two or three months after I did, and this newsletter announced that he was the first full-time foreign employee of Nissan Motors. So at least I know I predated him,” Foote laughed.

Discovering Foote’s interest in teaching, the head of Nissan's legal department took Foote under his wing. Japanese colleagues set time aside to teach Foote corporate law from the company perspective, and he observed contract negotiations first-hand. “A very valuable nine months… learned something I never would have seen otherwise,” Foote said. He would later use his experience to stage mock contract negotiations between students in a collaborative program between the Tokyo campus and the University of Washington, where he taught for 12 years.

Some things about teaching in Japan did surprise Foote. For example, he was not prepared to find colleagues arranged in a hierarchy by seniority, meaning by age. "What came as an even greater shock at my first faculty meeting was seeing graphically that I was the second foreigner.., but we foreigners outnumbered the women," said Foote. He notes that more women have joined the faculty since then, particularly in political science.

Asked how he became interested in studying Japan, Foote cited his father's service as a Japanese interpreter in WWII.

“And when I started Harvard College, Japanese fit my schedule," he said, smiling, "and Russian didn’t."
 

Terasaki Center for Japanese Studies