Seventy-four public and private universities plan to open law schools next April as part of Japan’s judicial system reform, with many private schools considering charging annual tuition of 1.5 million yen to 2 million yen, according to a recent Kyodo News survey.
About two-thirds of the 24 public and 50 private universities polled plan to establish the schools in urban locations in greater Tokyo or the Kinki region of western Japan, the survey found.
The establishment of law schools to train judges, prosecutors and lawyers is a main feature of reforms of the judiciary. The education ministry will begin accepting applications on June 13 and plans to approve, in principle, all of them.
Although one of the aims of creating law schools is to train lawyers in rural areas, the survey found that urban schools will contribute more than 70 percent of the total student capacity, indicating that lawyers will remain concentrated in cities.
The reforms aim to increase the number of certified legal practitioners and improve their quality by placing emphasis on law practice education instead of merely skills to pass the bar exam.
The reforms set goals of having more than 70 percent of law school graduates pass the new bar exam and having 3,000 people certified as lawyers per year by 2010. According to the survey, however, the 74 schools will have a total capacity of some 6,100 students, and if they all graduate, it would mean a bar exam passing rate of under 50 percent.
Most schools have yet to finalize tuition fees, as the government has not decided on the amount of subsidies. But 17 of the private universities said they plan to charge between 1.5 million yen to 2 million yen a year, while 14 are considering a level around 2 million yen and 10 at less than 1.5 million yen.
The public universities did not give concrete tuition figures, citing reasons that include that fees cannot be decided until the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology announces the subsidies standards.
However, four public universities said they are considering using the general tuition for graduate school, about 500,000 yen a year, as the benchmark and setting a ceiling of 1 million yen for the new law schools.
The high tuition fees are due to the need to hire law practitioners to teach small classes. Universities are expected to hire about 550 instructors for the law schools, including former judges and prosecutors, as well as lawyers who are currently practicing.
Regarding prerequisite qualifications for the law school entrance examinations next January and February, 44 schools said they will use an exam administered by the National Center for University Entrance Examinations, while 27 said they will accept an exam overseen by the Japan Law Foundation.
Under the new system, law school students are expected to graduate in three years. Those who studied law at the undergraduate level can complete the program in two years. Graduates will qualify to take the new bar exam to be introduced in 2006.
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