A Voice for the Vulnerable

Yoko Kobayashi was born in Nagano, Japan. At the age of 10, Yoko decided to become a lawyer to become a voice for vulnerable communities. Since becoming a lawyer in 2004, Yoko has helped underserved communities, including victims of crimes. In 2009, Yoko moved to the United States to research victims’ rights on behalf of the Japanese Bar Association.

Yoko has passed the bar exam in Japan, California, and New York. She currently works at the New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)one of the largest legal nonprofit organizations in New York, where she provides legal services to patients in partnered hospitals through the nonprofit's LegalHealth program.

Yoko is also a current board member of Human Rights Now, a Japan-based human rights organization.


Iroha: Please tell us about your past work, projects or initiatives.

Yoko: Prior to coming to the U.S. in 2009, I was a litigator for 5 years at a mid-sized law firm in Japan representing corporations and individuals from children to the elderly in a wide range of matters. At the same time, on a pro bono basis, I represented victims of crimes in court in both civil and criminal cases, accompanying them to interviews and meetings with law enforcement, preparing all documents to file cases, and conducting direct and cross examination. I also co-authored legislation that successfully revised the Japanese legal code to enable victims to join criminal proceedings as participants, instead of as mere witnesses.

Iroha: What are you currently working on?

Yoko: Providing legal services to low income patients of our partnered hospitals in matters that include benefits, housing, family issues, immigration, and advance planning.

Iroha: What are your plans for the future?

Yoko: I'll continue to provide legal services to vulnerable and underserved communities, especially focusing on systemic racism.

Iroha: Based on your work or background, do you have any advice or a message for young people who want to follow in your footsteps?

Yoko: Follow your heart and instincts.

Iroha: Outside of work, what are you most interested in right now?

Yoko: Cooking and chatting with like-minded people.

written by Jessica Woolsey

Yoko Kobayashi :  LinkedIn

New York Legal Assistance Group (NYLAG)

Human Rights Now