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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, June 25, 2012

Law School Enrollment Blues ... In Japan

Japan FlagThe Japan Times editorial, Law School Enrollment Blues:

Recruitment failed to meet enrollment goals at 63 of Japan's 73 law schools in 2011. The number of students enrolled was less than half the quota at 35 law schools, compared with only 14 under-filled schools last year.

Twenty law schools had fewer than 10 new students. The Justice Ministry's plan to increase the number of lawyers in the country, begun in 2004 with the opening of new law schools and the introduction of a new bar exam, needs serious reassessment.

Perhaps the right rate of expansion for law schools was miscalculated. Still, the need for more lawyers is evident. Japan has one lawyer for every 4,119 people, compared with one lawyer for every 250 people in the United States. More lawyers are needed, for example, for businesses expanding abroad and for clearing up the aftermath of the Tohoku disaster. In addition, judges, prosecutors and other law professionals are needed to develop Japan's domestic legal system, both civil and criminal.

Part of the reason for the drop in applicants to law schools is that the bar exam is so difficult to pass. In 2011, only 2,063 people, 23.5% of examinees, passed — the lowest rate since the new exam began in 2006. Though that is much higher than the 2% to 3% pass rate before the changes, many laws schools have had to sacrifice teaching how the law actually works to teaching techniques for taking and passing the bar exam. ...

[T]he Justice Ministry and the law schools have urgent work to do. Without more legal professionals, Japan's potential to develop the rule of law with greater transparency, efficiency and justice will remain uncertain.

The Law School Tuition Bubble, Failing Law Schools: Japan Edition:

[T]he 1:250 ratio is not the one I’d use. It’s probably the ABA’s number of lawyers active and resident in the United States, which includes down-to-earth folk like me who ain’t a-practicing. Given the 35-year rate of law degrees, the ratio is 1:231, which at least implies that the number of ABA grads who don’t take or pass a bar exam is fairly low. This appears good. The reality, though is that the ratio of employed lawyers is much lower. Nearly 1:300 for the Current Population Survey and 1:425 by the Occupational Outlook Handbook. This of course means there are more legally educated Americans than lawyer/judge/clerk/government jobs for them. Not a shining comparison to aspire to.

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"...the need for more lawyers is evident. Japan has one lawyer for every 4,119 people, compared with one lawyer for every 250 people in the United States."

Wrong conclusion. Japan has enough lawyers. The U.S. has too many.

Posted by: Woody | Jun 25, 2012 2:16:44 PM

It is a little more complicated than first appears. Japan is in the middle of reengineering its law school system, switching from undergrad to graduate style education. Many folks are simply not convinced to dive into this new program with fears that it might soon reverse course and leave them institutionally outside.

S Korea is beginning a similar roll over. Many folks are not too happy about it there either.

Maybe the real American solution is to go the other direction, let more folks take an undergrad LLB for basic solicitor work and then let others, fewer go on to graduate work to learn trial work, judge-craft, and academic levels of study. Like business does with BAs and MBAs and PhDs.

Posted by: Memo | Jun 26, 2012 1:05:18 AM