Reforming Legal Education in Japan: Current Issues and Future Outlook

Giorgio Fabio Colombo (University of Nagoya)
Economics, Business and Political Economy
Torre B, Piso 3, T11
Start time:
31 August, 2017 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This panel addresses the recent crisis of the legal education in Japan (including the Law School system) and provides an analysis of current criticalities and perspectives, in order to present the situation and offer some proposal for improvement.

Long abstract:

In 2004, Japan implemented a seminal reform regarding the access to the legal professions. The new system envisaged, as the primary pathway to become a lawyer, judge, or prosecutor, the attendance to a Law School (Hōka Daigakuin) broadly modelled on the United States' equivalent institution. The purposes of the reform were mainly two: first, increasing the number of legal professionals in the country, their shortage being considered a barrier to (the functioning of) an efficient market of legal services; second, creating a class of jurists with a more diverse background, making them "problem solvers" rather than just "law experts". The first bar examination carried out under the new system, in 2006, saw a significant increase in the passing rate, and the reform was greeted enthusiastically by several commentators. However, after this initial optimism, it is now possible to argue that the reform was unsuccessful. The passing rate collapsed (from 48.3 to 23.1%); enrollment to the Law Schools is now about one seventh of what it was in 2004 (from 72,800 to 10,370); out of the 74 institutions presently active in the country, 23 have announced their closure or have stopped accepting new students. Many voices are calling for an overhaul of the system. This panel intends to assess the reasons behind this situation, approaching the subject from three different angles. Takayuki Ii will provide first-hand evidence about the user perspective, by presenting the results of his research on the Law School's students expectations before entering the program and while attending classes; Michela Riminucci will examine whether the reform had an impact on the increase in the number of women in the legal profession. Finally, Andrea Ortolani will discuss the broader topic of the future of undergraduate legal education in Japan, providing an answer to the fundamental question: what should a Japanese faculty of law look like in 2030? After the presentations, the panel coordinator Giorgio Colombo will serve as discussant.