From Unemployment to YouTube Stardom: The Unique Resume of Takeshi Okano, Freelancer and Renowned Lawyer | FRIDAY DIGITAL

From Unemployment to YouTube Stardom: The Unique Resume of Takeshi Okano, Freelancer and Renowned Lawyer

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It has 1.58 million YouTube subscribers and 680,000 TikTok followers (as of January 15). They are also very popular with children.

Is it a crime if I pour lemon on someone’s fried chicken without their permission?” (Answer is at the end of the article.)

Takeshi Okano, 46, a lawyer, provides legal commentary on such questions in the Kansai dialect in “Otona Rokuho” (Crossmedia Publishing), published last October. He is also a legal YouTuber with 1.5 million registered users, and many people have probably seen him on social networking sites, where he provides interesting legal commentary.

Okano is also the founder of the Atom Law Office Group, which has expanded to 12 offices nationwide. One would think that he would have followed an elite path, but instead of going to college after high school, he moved to the United States. After working as a freelancer, he took the bar exam with a high school diploma, which is a unique career path. We asked Mr. Okano about his career to date.

Growing up in Hirakata City, Osaka, Mr. Okano was a very ordinary boy who would write in his elementary school essays about his “future dreams,” such as “running a detective agency with my friends” or “riding a motorcycle around the world. He had good study skills, but his grades were not particularly high. Why did he decide to go to the U.S. instead of going to college?

I did my best to pass the high school entrance exam, but after entering high school, I was in a band and didn’t study much. My grades were at the bottom of the class. I didn’t go to college because I didn’t make a strong decision. I simply didn’t find the career of graduating from a good university and getting a job at a good company attractive. I wondered if I would go in some different direction than others, not working for a company or something. I never felt like I had to go where everyone else was going.”

After graduation, Okano worked as a freelancer for a while before going to the United States. However, he did not have any firm motive for going, but rather, “I am from the Kansai region, so I thought that America would be a more exciting career path than Tokyo (laughs). So what was he doing in the U.S.?

I didn’t do anything (laughs). I went to an English school at first, and within two or three months I got a score of 500 on the TOFEL test at the time. I’m good to the point, so if I work hard, I can do it (laughs). However, my grades and GPA at my high school, which were required to go to the art college I wanted to go to, were catastrophic, so I knew I couldn’t go there.

Then I lost the motivation to do well in English school. I was kind of plodding along (laughs). (laughs). I went to inexpensive live shows and skateboarded. I just wasted my time, that’s how I felt. It was exactly like a backpacker sinking in Southeast Asia.

Okano spent two and a half years in the U.S., but “my curiosity was no longer satisfied,” so he somehow returned to Japan and moved to Tokyo. There, he found a group of friends who were walking the same rails he had gone off. At first, they were having fun together, going to blind dates and doing stupid things, but by the time they reached their third year of college, they were putting on suits and getting ready to go out into the world. Seeing the gap between his friends and himself, Mr. Okano began to think, “Let’s be serious now! He began to think, “I’m going to be serious now! However, Mr. Okano immediately decided to take the bar exam, the most difficult qualification to pass. This may not sound like a very serious idea, but he had his own reasons.

I did a lot of research and what came to mind was the bar exam. I thought a medical license would be nice, but it would require six years of college, which is a bit too much. I found out that the bar exam can be taken even by high school graduates. I also heard that it is the strongest qualification test for liberal arts majors. I thought, “I love this one-shot turnaround! (laughs).

I didn’t know anything about the bar exam specifically, but I thought, ‘If I do it, I can do it! I thought, ‘If I do it, I’ll do it! (laughs).

If I had gone to high school and university normally, I would never have considered the bar exam 100%. But when I went to the U.S., my perspective changed (laughs). (Laughs.) An 18- or 19-year-old who couldn’t even speak English at first would gain power by wandering around various places in New York. The hurdles to challenging the unknown were lowered. I thought, ‘Compared to the adventure of jumping into the danger and surviving, the bar exam is nothing more than studying at a desk.

The reality, however, is not so easy. As a high school graduate, Mr. Okano had to take the first stage of the examination, which is exempted for third- and fourth-year university students, and it was only on his third attempt that he was able to pass the exam. It took him a full five years to finally pass the bar exam. Did he ever lose heart?

I started at the age of 22 or 23, and studied for 10,000 hours until I passed at the age of 28, to put it simply (laughs). What made it bearable was the fact that my grades were rising steadily. There are many people who fail the bar exam with an A grade on the essay exam, study hard, take it the next year, and this time get a D grade on the essay. If I had been like that, it would have been tough.”

Okano passed the bar exam in 2006, but after completing his legal training, he suddenly became independent and opened his current firm, ATOM Law Office.

I didn’t start out with the idea of opening my own law firm. I wanted to go with the flow of joining a firm, but I couldn’t join a firm where I could have a strong feeling of ‘I want to be here,’ and that was the only way.

But after 10 years of being unemployed and a freelancer, I had developed a sense that I didn’t need to belong to an organization or group (laughs). (Laughs.) Normally, I would feel intimidated unless I belonged to an organization or group and trained there before setting up on my own. But here I was a native who had to start from scratch to make a living in the wilderness, and that seemed to be the norm (laughs). (Laughs.) For the time being, I had a strong weapon, my license as a lawyer, so I thought, ‘I can definitely make a living.

While the legal industry was booming with overpayment services, Mr. Okano decided to handle private criminal defense. The year was 2008, and it had not been long since deregulation had made it possible for lawyers in the legal industry to advertise. While there were still few law firms actively using advertising, Mr. Okano, who had been using PCs since his days in the U.S. and had knowledge of SEO, was able to successfully implement a strategy of using online advertisements.

There was a reason I decided to handle private criminal cases. I had a traffic accident during my legal training, and there were many things I didn’t understand at that time. Since even legal apprentices, who are the closest laypersons to the legal profession, don’t understand, I thought there would be a need for consultation regarding criminal cases involving the police. I thought we would break even, whether we made money or not.

In fact, new consultants and clients have been pouring in. However, there were criticisms about using advertisements to attract clients in the legal industry, where it is not customary to advertise.

There was all kinds of criticism, and I sometimes felt that I was disliked by other lawyers in the same profession. In fact, within six months of opening my practice, I received an investigation from the bar association. I had archived my case resolution results on my website, but they said, ‘There is no way that such an immediately independent lawyer can resolve so many cases in such a short period of time! It’s false advertising! Someone told the bar association, “That’s a false advertisement! I guess they were not amused.

Mr. Okano has lived naturally according to his own sensibilities at the time. Today, the hurdles to starting a business without riding the existing rails have been considerably lowered. Perhaps Mr. Okano was just ahead of his time in what he was doing.

When I look back on my life up to this point, I never thought I would become a lawyer, nor did I think I would do YouTube. So I might want to go after something perky again (laughs). My motto is to “ride the current,” so if there is a new and interesting trend in the future, I think I will jump on it and enjoy it.

It seems that Mr. Okano will continue to explore the wilderness.

(*By the way, Mr. Okano’s legal response to the question at the beginning of this article is: “Basically, it is not a crime, but in some cases it is. If you pour it over the fried food of a person with a severe lemon allergy, you may be charged with destruction of property. If that person develops allergic symptoms, you could be charged with injury, and if the result is death, you could even be charged with manslaughter or murder”!)

When I was in school, I was in a band. (After all, he once felt some sympathy for Yusaku Maezawa, who was immersed in band activities during his high school years.

Adult Rokuho” (Crossmedia Publishing)

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