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The House of Representatives passed three bills Tuesday aimed at improving the educational system for legal professionals in a bid to increase both their quality and number.

The bills would lead to a more comprehensive legal education system linking law schools, bar exams and legal apprenticeships.

The measures, intended as the first step in reforming the judicial system and based on a plan approved by the Cabinet in March, are expected to be enacted once they receive approval by the House of Councilors during the current Diet session, which is scheduled to end Dec. 13.

The government is reportedly hoping to increase the number of legal professionals to around 50,000 by 2018, up from about 20,000 at present, in the expectation the deregulation process will lead to more litigation.

The first bill aims at expanding the number of legal professionals by placing emphasis on education at law schools, which will be started in 2004, setting up a new bar exam and linking them through the legal apprenticeship process.

Under the existing system, people can enter the legal profession based solely on how well they do on national bar exams.

The second bill calls for a revision of the national bar examination law to introduce a pre-exam that those who are not graduates of law schools will need to pass before taking the bar exam.

It would also limit the number of times an individual can take the new national bar exam to three times in five years and shorten the period of legal apprenticeships to one year from 18 months.

A new bar exam for law school graduates would be introduced in 2006, while the current exam will be kept until 2010 for those who do not attend law school. The pre-exam would be introduced in 2011.

The third bill calls for the introduction of a system for third parties to evaluate students so as to maintain and improve the standard of higher education.

The Lower House Judicial Affairs Committee passed the bills on linking the education and training system and revising the bar exam law earlier Tuesday, while the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Committee approved the bill to revise the school education law last Friday.

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