Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Japan: Underlawyered or Overlawyered -- or Who Knows?

There was a fascinating article in the Japan Times online about the reason for having or not having many lawyers. See Colin P.A. Jones, "Law Schools Come under Friendly Fire," Japan Times online (Jan. 28, 2008). Among the points made by the protagonists in the debate (which takes the form of a debate about the number of persons who ought to be allowed to pass the annual bar exam) are the following:
  • The number of people allowed to pass the annual bar exam is fixed at an absolute number.

  • Japan's Justice Minister Hatoyama is challenging the current plan to increase the number of annual admittees from 1,500 to 3,000 by 2010.
    My research shows that the current population of Japan is roughly 127,000,000.
  • Colin Jones, the author of the article, asserts that regional bar associations have joined the justice minister in questioning the planned increase in the number of planned admittees. He writes:
    Unfortunately, in addition to these very valid criticisms, at least some of the bar association comments veer off into self-interest and self-importance, both justified by an alternative form of logic that only applies to protected industries. The Kanazawa Bar Association, for example, argues that more lawyers will result in (gasp!) greater competition. Facing increased competition, goes the logic, lawyers will have to focus increasingly on the grubby task of making money, losing the leisure that is apparently necessary to engage in advocacy for the public good (which is of course one of the mandates of lawyers everywhere). As a result, the number of immoral lawyers will increase as they take on bad, even hopeless, cases just to earn a living.
  • The pass rate on the annual bar exam was once 2-3%.
  • The author of the article -- a professor at Doshisha University Law School in Kyoto -- opines: "That the number of lawyers generated by the new law schools has become an issue already, when the impact so far is a relatively modest increase, reflects one of the core problems with the whole system — that it was apparently set up without a serious inquiry into what the average person actually needs out of Japan's legal system. Indeed, one fascinating aspect of the whole debate over the number of lawyers in Japan is that it misses a simple, basic fact — that the average Japanese person may not regard the legal system as a useful tool for solving problems. If you are arrested and prosecuted for a crime you will be found guilty over 99 percent of the time. If you get divorced and lose contact with your children, going to court probably won't change a thing. Lawsuits against the national government are shown to be losing propositions almost daily in the news. Small wonder then that Japanese people are averse to litigation, when it is so often proven to be futile."
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