Thursday, December 31, 2015
Wall Street Journal Law Blog: Japanese Law Schools Facing ‘Unprecedented Crisis’, by Jacob Gershman:
About a decade ago Japan embarked on an ambitious plan to groom more lawyers.
With its long tradition of out-of-court dispute resolution and lack of litigation, the country never had a lot of need for lawyers. But by 2004, a surge of civil suits and other court cases led the country to adopt a legal education system more like the one here. The country opened 68 new U.S.-style law schools within universities and set out to more than double its lawyer population, which stood at just 23,000. (The United States has more than one million lawyers, in comparison.)
Under the old system, you didn’t have to graduate from law school to become a lawyer in Japan, but had to pass an extremely difficult exam. Under the new system, a law degree was required. But it turned out that demand for lawyers and law degrees was much less than anticipated. And now, according to a new report, many of its government-subsidized law schools are shutting down or on the brink of closure.
“Law schools are now facing an unprecedented crisis,” writes University of Tsukuba researcher* Masahiro Tanaka in the Asian Journal of Legal Education. In 2004, the number of applicants to Japanese law schools was 72,800. In 2014, says Mr. Tanaka, the figure had fallen to 11,450.
Law schools were struggling so much that Japan adopted a new policy to reduce the number of schools. By April, only 54 schools were accepting students, he says. That number is likely to fall further.