BONILLA DE LA PLATA Christopher KUINEP student ID 0490208381 Law and Politics in Japan Development of a New Legal Training System
In July 1999, the Justice System Reform Council was established in order to « clarify the role to be played by justice in Japanese society in the 21st century » Its main role is to examine and deliberate fundamental measures necessary for the realization of a justice system easier to utilize, measures necessary for participation by the people in the justice system like the Saiban’In, measures necessary to strengthen the functions of the legal profession and other reforms of the justice system, as well as improvements in the infrastructures. The development of a new legal training system was so one of the major issues.
According to the prior legal training system (see appendix) , the legal education was conducted primarily during the undergraduate level and used to mainly focus on theoretical knowledge with a lack of practical experiences and specialization. In Japan, there’re about one hundred universities which have law faculty. Around 45,000 students enrol for law studies every year. Unfortunately, most of them spend their entire career in law academies and rare are those who can experience law practice, for example legal training
Actually a few students get legal profession and all the others go to companies after graduate. The fact that the average of applicants who passed the Bar examination every year didn’t exceed 5%, almost 500 people, shows that the previous training system was outdated. One of the main objectives of the Council is to enable 3000 student to pass the exam every year within 2010. Indeed the Japanese legal system wants to increase the number of legal professionals in comparison to the other nations. For example, in the US there are currently 1 million of lawyer, in France 47,000 and in Japan only 24,130.
We have to remind that the Japanese population is twice the French one. One the main problem put forward is the difficulty and the hyper-competitiveness of the Bar examination. In order to succeed, some students have no choice but going to preparatory school or study by themselves with private support, like internet or distance teaching, because the knowledge provided at the university seems to be not enough. So we can witness a double school phenomenon which can have a bad influence over the equality between students and the skills really learned.
In order to reform the legal training system efficiently and to increase the number of professionals, the Council introduced major recommendations like the establishment of law schools (see appendix) or the re-organization of the bar exam system. The main objective remains to keep quality and quantity. Moreover, more and more students pledge for more social and financial independence because law studies are very expensive. From the point of view of quantity, the Council aimed to increase the number of passers on bar exam to 3000 by 2010.
In order to satisfy conditions of quality, the reforms have to make human resource suitable for Justice of 21st century and propose real specialization and practice. The number of lawyers expected in Japan in 2018 is 50,000. The former legal training system led to problems such as « university flight » or the double school phenomenon where students go to preparatory schools to take no chances. The solution proposed by the Council was the creation of law schools providing specialized skills, theoretical and practical, and open to students from broad range such as graduates from non-law faculties or legal experienced people.
The establishment of small classes, with no more than 50 students, may enable a better interactivity and creativity and improve skills in advocacy. The strict evaluation and grading system is also a strong argument in order to insure the students’ commitment in their studies and provide a useful course of studies. The objective of such schools is to provide between 70% and 80% of successful graduates to the Bar Exam. The reorganization of legal education means to put in relation the Bar Exam and the law schools programs and meet the needs of the Justice system.
So a new version of examination has been created. The legal knowledge and skills mastered or the course completed by the graduate student are now considered and furthermore increase the importance of studying seriously at law schools. The number of times that you can try to pass the bar examination has been limited to 3 times within 5 years. In this way, this rule may prevent applicants to waste their time on narrow range studies and suggest them other paths and courses of study.
We can also witness the creation of a preliminary exam which secure people with sufficient practical experiences in real world and who didn’t go to law school. The different scholarships that students can apply for are a real step forward but the universities fees remain very high. According to a financial support, people are supposed study at law schools without any difficulties. If you cannot pay academic fees, you can get scholarships but most of them have to be paid back after graduating school.
So whether you pass the Bar exam or not, the situation is critical for the students who go on debts early in their careers. For freshmen students, the fees for the first year at the university are too expensive. For example, to go to a National school as Kyoto University or Tokyo University, a student has to pay 1 million yen. For a Private school, it’s 1. 5 million yen. So the inequality between students over financial support is still relevant today. Despite the creation of law school, many students are still dissatisfied with the programs and pledge for an increase of practical experiences.
Initially the new system was planning to make 70% of the applicants pass the Bar Exam but only 40% actually do it. The reforms undertaken have been partly successfully: today, 1500 students pass the Bar exam every year. As a result, many students keep going to preparatory schools to increase their chances. The limitation to 3 times in 5 years over the Bar exam may lead to some problem, especially in Japan. It seems that the older you are, the more extremely difficult it is to get decent jobs because Japanese companies often consider the people’s age.
So the pressure is high to succeed the first time and few students are ready to venture to fail three times the exam. The new legal training system need to be developed further. In order to show a possible evolution of the system, we can consider a European example of legal training system. In France, the graduate system is organised through the LMD (Licence, Master and Doctorate) system. During the 3 years of the licence cycle, the faculty of law provides general knowledge. After graduating, we have a first specialization at the master level.
Different courses of study are so available: commercial law, private law, public and administrative law, social law and international law. The main objective of this first specialization is to train student and make them proficient in specific fields. Then after the master which lasts 2 years, the students can pass exams to join different schools according to their ambitions. The professions of court clerk, judges and prosecutor require entering the National Magistracy School which is very selective. People who want to become lawyer may join one of the egional legal training schools which examinations are easier. A complementary master of one year can also be taken and begins a second specialization like European law, fiscal law and notary. According to a reform undertaken by the European Union in order to strengthen the relationships between the different European universities, the credits you get in one country can be transferred to an another country. The law systems are no necessary similar but this training system enables students to be very mobile and to improve their knowledge about European law.
The National Magistracy School examination is very selective but accessible at different level. The first examination is open to master students, the second to civil servant and the third to people who have at least 8 years of experience in the private field. There is also recruitment on status for people with a master of law and 4 years of economic or legal experience. Nevertheless some students still have to attend preparatory schools because master courses don’t provide all the knowledge necessary to pass the examination. In 2009, only 137 applicants out of 1500 passed the exam.
So it remains easier to become lawyer. During all their studies, students are supported by scholarships on social status that allows students from low classes to reach a high level of education. Such scholarship don’t have to be repaid. The current Japanese legal training system is still not as good as it could be and needs further developments, especially about the promotion of equal opportunities between students. Today, only people who have the financial means or take loans to pay for their education can study law. The risk remains high because still many student are not able to pass the bar exam.
In comparison, the French system is fair for students without financial support and enables them to study in other European countries. But on the other hand, the bar examination is very strict and a few applicants succeed. One of the major objectives of the Councils is to increase the number of legal profession while providing education of quality. That’s all the challenge of the development of a new legal training system. The creation of law schools represents a step forward from the point of view of specialization but the environment where the students evolve is also very important.
In my opinion, the financial and social support is one of the keys in the reform process and can be implemented to all the education system in Japan. References YANAGITA Houkadaigakuin-kousou no risou to genjitu « The ideal and reality of the plan of law school » (2001) SUAMI Kounaru houkadaigakuin « How will law school be » (2003) Daniel. H FOOTE University of Tokyo Justice System Reform in Japan Retrieved on the 30th May 2009 from the World Web Wide: http://www. reds. msh-paris. fr/communication/docs/foote. pdf See also appendix French National Magistracy School website http://www. enm. justice. fr/anglais/home. php Appendix