On May 25, Mitsuko Kawamoto, a practicing attorney from Tokyo, Japan, visited Energy Law Wisconsin with her husband Yoshimizu (Mitch) Kawamoto, and their energetic two year old son Yoshiharu (Hatch) Kawamoto. Mitsuko is a visiting scholar with the recommendation of the Japan Federation of Bar Association at the University of Illinois Law School in Champaign, Illinois. She is particularly interested in legal issues associated with the production and regulation of bio-ethanol.
I met Mitsuko in April 2011, when I spoke at the 3rd Annual Law Advanced Biofuels Law and Regulation Conference at the University of Illinois, sponsored by the Energy Bioscience Institute (EBI). EBI is a research and development organization that harnesses advanced knowledge in biology, the physical sciences, engineering, and environmental and social sciences to devise viable solutions to global energy challenges and reduce the impact of fossil fuels to global warming.
Mitsuko and I discussed the practice of law in Japan and the United States’ system of federal, state and local laws that regulate energy and the environment. Specifically, Mitsuko was interested to know:
- When does a federal law “trump” a state or local law?
- What are the differences between energy policy in Wisconsin and Illinois?
- How to build a career as an energy attorney after graduation from law school.
My meeting with Mitsuko was a good reminder of the significant differences between the practice of law in the United States and overseas. Among other things, Mitsuko shared that virtually no attorneys in Japan specialize in energy law. This may seem surprising, given Japan’s highly industrialized economy and heavy reliance on energy sources including coal, nuclear and renewables. We each appreciated the international perspective. In addition, Hatch showed great promise for a future career in the energy industry, happily playing with a toy electric and gas utility truck in the office. I enjoyed lunch with Mitsuko and her family before they left to visit the Wisconsin Capitol and the University of Wisconsin campus.
Mitsuko is the second international attorney I have had the privilege to visit with in the past 12 months, following my earlier meeting with Ugandan attorney Alex Buri. Even for a solo practitioner in Wisconsin, the energy world is getting flatter.