Law school and bar exam reform

A government panel plans to review and revise the system implemented to produce more lawyers, judges and public prosecutors in Japan. The main goal of the panel is to reform the bar exam and new types of law schools that were established in the 2000s.

The Justice Ministry, the education ministry, the Supreme Court and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations will take part in the review process. Reform will begin within two years. It is hoped that the government will come up with a realistic plan for helping to improve the quality of legal services for people.

On the basis of a recommendation made by the Justice System Reform Council in June 2001, 74 new law schools opened from April 2004 to April 2005, and a new bar exam began being used in May 2006 to test the graduates of these law schools.

The government adopted a plan in March 2002 that envisaged about 3,000 applicants from these law schools passing the new bar exam each year. But the government dropped the plan when it became clear that only about 2,000 graduates were passing the exam. There is an opinion that the number of successful applicants should be halved. But this should be avoided because it would lower the availability and quality of legal services.

In view of the fact that the performances of some law schools has been lower than expected, the education minister has called for lowering of the number of students enrolled and integrating some law schools. One law school has already closed.

By using two criteria — the pass rate for the bar exam and the ratio of total and successful applicants for entrance exams — the education ministry has been decreasing subsidies for law schools whose performance has been low. This measure has led eight law schools to stop admitting new students.

From next year, the education ministry will use an additional criterion — the “fill-rate” of the enrollment capacity. It will start reducing subsidies for 18 law schools that have failed to meet the three criteria. These figures demonstrate that the quality of many law schools is unsatisfactory.

It has been reported that the review panel is considering depriving graduates of law schools that have failed to resolve their problems of the right to sit for the bar exam. But concentrating on punishing under-performing law schools will not lead to productive results.

Instead, the government should focus on improving the quality of education at such law schools. It should also consider ways to encourage more people to enter law schools and improve employment prospects for graduates, particularly in rural areas where there is a shortage of lawyers. It should also beef up support for law schools whose graduates have a high pass rate for the bar exam, render high-quality legal services in local communities or are active on the international scene.

  • zer0_0zor0

    They’re approaching this strictly from the supply side, when the problem in fact is more on the demand side. That is to say, the current damages system for civil suits does not not provide sufficient inventive to prosecute violations of the law.

    There are two sides to that, too. First, the deterrent effect, particularly in cases involving administrative malfeasance and the like, is far from functional. Second, in the case that the deterrent fails to dissuade transgression, the compensation for having one’s rights violated hardly justifies the time and expense required to seek a verdict against the offending party.

    Without a more robust damages regime, there just isn’t enough of a financial base to support the existence of the increase in attorneys, which does seem necessary.

    The current systems is based on a kind of dysfunctional status quoism that problematizes a fundamental dimension of rule of law insofar as there is a disincentive to pursuing remedies in the courts. .

  • The issue is not so much the quality of legal services, but the quality or structure og govt, and the philosophically ‘incoherent’ underpinnings of law. Its about time we dropped the defence of Roman law, and recognised that the English and Celtic might have been on to something before the Romans invaded and instituted ‘Roman (statutory) law’.

    • zer0_0zor0

      What is your ‘coherent’ alternative to statutory law?
      What is it that the Celts and English had, exactly?

      • Common/natural law. Statutory (or Roman) law is a system for extorting values from one party at the expense of another. The majority does not make right; it lacks a rational standard. The law should be protecting us from the mob; not sanctioning their indiscretions, or those representatives who would claim their ‘mandate’. Our politicians are salesmen, not statesmen. That is because of ‘the system’, not inherently character defects.

      • Jamie Bakeridge

        Common law was developed by the King’s Bench of the court of Henry II – it did not pre-date the Roman invasion.

      • Natural law did.

      • zer0_0zor0

        I don’t see an answer as to what the English and Celts had before the Romans, and natural law is a doctrine that was articulated and developed by the Ancient Greeks and Romans. I’m sure they must have had some normative system.

        Legal history is not my field, but I would imagine that “common law” was an attempt to codify natural law.