Over twenty years’ experience as a lawyer, and three decades of connection with Japan and New Zealand.


Catherine O’Connell has an extensive background in law, business, and cross-cultural communications. Prior to founding Catherine O’Connell Law Office, Catherine practiced in a wide range of in-house roles and is one of the few foreign lawyers to have worked in the manufacturing industry in Japan. Catherine’s in-house work is balanced with foundations in private practice in law firms in Japan, New Zealand and London.



Professional Licenses

Barrister & Solicitor – New Zealand (since 1995)
Solicitor – England & Wales (since 2009)
Registered Foreign Lawyer – Japan (since 2018)

Regulatory memberships

New Zealand Law Society (New Zealand)
Solicitors Regulation Authority (England & Wales)
Dai-ichi Tokyo Bar Association (Japan)

University Degrees

B.A. (Japanese) – University of Canterbury (1994)
LLB. – University of Canterbury (1994)


1985 - 1986 Japanese language course: Christchurch Institute of Technology (CPIT) – First in class 1985 and 1986

1986 – New Zealand Nationwide Japanese Language Competition – First place

1987 - 1990 Tour Guide for Japanese tourists with JTB New Zealand

1990 – 1995 University Lecturer of 1st year Japanese; Police & Court-approved Japanese Translator

Nihongo Noryoku Shiken Level II



Experience in law prior to founding Catherine O’Connell Law

1995 - 2002 Anderson Lloyd (incorporating Flesher Sandford/Caudwells), Christchurch, New Zealand
Senior Solicitor

2002 - 2003 – Olympus Corporation, Tokyo
In-House Counsel

2004 - 2007 – Panasonic Electronic Devices and Panasonic Corporation, Osaka
Senior In-House Counsel

2008 - 2012 – Hogan Lovells, Tokyo
Senior Associate, Corporate Team

2008 - 2010 – Mitsubishi Motors Legal Department (secondment)

2010 - Hogan Lovells, London
Senior Associate, Corporate & Commercial Team

2012 - 2017 – Molex Japan LLC
Head of Legal, APAC North Regional Counsel, Division Counsel

Organisations I support

Women in Law Japan (WILJ)
Australian & New Zealand Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ANZCCJ), Executive Council, Vice Chair
American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ), Legal Services Committee- Vice Chair

Yes, I am fluent in Japanese, and I do understand Japanese culture

What that means is:

  • I can understand what’s going on in a business meeting in Japanese and provide my point of view
  • I can review Japanese contracts, documents, PowerPoints and other business/legal materials written in Japanese
  • I can interview job candidates in Japanese and speak with witnesses assisting in investigations in Japanese helping them to speak their voice
  • I can converse in business Japanese without difficulty
  • I can stand up in front of a room of people, do training in Japanese, give a speech or perform as a panelist in a panel discussion
  • I taught the first-year Japanese language course at Canterbury University and The Christchurch Institute of Technology whilst I was studying my law papers.

I understand Japanese culture:

  • This comes from an intensive 30+ years’ relationship with Japan
  • It comes from having home-hosted Japanese students while I studied Japanese
  • I won a nationwide “Speak Japanese” contest at the tender age of 19 and travelled to Japan for the first time on the first-prize air ticket. Japan captured my heart on that first trip and I have never looked back since
  • It comes from my experience of engaging with Japan from my pre-lawyer days when I worked for JTB and jumped on a bus each week tour-guiding Japanese visitors all around New Zealand, talking to them in Japanese, bringing high school students and Mayoral delegations from Christchurch to Kurashiki on Sister-City exchanges
  • It comes from my experience as a registered Police and District Court translator, translating in the law courts and at the police station, for Japanese victims and also for Japanese who got into a bit of trouble and had to appear before the police or judges. Japanese and foreign clients tell me they truly value my capability in Japanese language and my understanding of Japanese culture. I bundle up these language and cultural assets as a benefit for you working with me to leverage your legal options.


Speaking | Panels

  • Participated as a panelist discussing topics of focus for in-house legal teams such: "Establishing a culture of good governance and transparency”, “Compliance and Regulatory Issues for International Companies”, “The Transformative Role of Legal Counsel” and “Information Security issues for In-House Counsel”

  • Conducted series of training on NDA and Contracts for “buy” and “sell” side in Japan and Asia for sales/marketing/procurement/HR/finance employees, to understand risks and effect of contracts/NDAs

  • Facilitated “Leading with Integrity” training for management team

  • Facilitated “Careful Communications” workshop for sales management team


A sample of some of the work we have done

Prepared a Partnership Agreement for Japan-based foreign partners identifying liability, risk, privacy & data-collection issues

Supported a maturing foreign business based in Japan with in-house legal counsel ad-hoc advisory support to strategise various issues including recovery of unpaid commission, new outbound business venture with US-based marketing company, IP rights related to on-line gaming app.

Provided ad-hoc legal support for Japan based technology SME facing a shareholder dispute  

Supported ad-hoc advisory support for several companies seeking trade mark registration in Japan and collaborated with patent attorney business partner for pre-screening trade mark and application process.  

In collaboration with Japanese labor lawyer provided ad-hoc advisory on various Japanese employment matters for both employer and employee side to negotiate amicable exit/separation of employees in Japan subsidiary of foreign corporates.

Provided ad-hoc corporate governance and overseas subsidiary oversight advice for Japanese law firm for their Japanese client’s overseas subsidiaries in Asia and Canada