Japan’s Legal Profession Doesn’t Need Law Schools

…Is really all I have to say in response to the May 30th Yomiuri Shinbun editorial titled, “Law School Reform Urgently Needed, Essential for Profession’s Future.” I discussed the striking data underlying this topic last week. The newspaper that owns the indomitable the Tokyo Giants baseball team writes:

The primary cause of this situation [people qualifying for the bar exam by taking the preliminary test rather than blowing ~$16,000-$45,000 on two to three years of law school] lies in the fact that law schools have failed to perform their function of nurturing the legal profession.

Launched in 2004, law schools aim to foster work-ready legal professionals. Therefore, their curricula emphasize practical business skills, and essentially exclude preparation for the bar exam. The result is low pass rates. It could be said that law schools fail to fulfill the original purpose for their establishment.

It is, of course, necessary to cultivate practical business capabilities. But, first and foremost, it is essential to help students acquire the abilities needed to pass the bar exam. Reconsideration of curricula is essential in this regard.

What nonsense. Prospective lawyers are behaving rationally. If it’s less risky to take the preliminary test than be nurtured into a “work-ready legal professional” at law school at their cost, then that’s what people will do. The fact that the bar exam is the necessary condition to becoming a lawyer in Japan means that the law schools’ purpose is frivolous. If the state thinks the exam is more important than learning professionalism or whatever, then concerned newspapers should be lobbying to either change the test to cover practical skills or reduce its impact altogether. It sounds to me like Japan’s legal profession’s future doesn’t need law schools. The government’s failed policy has pretty much said as much.

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