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Japan’s Goal to Produce More Lawyers a Waste
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Japan law school

Summary: Japan reacted to more court cases in 2004, changing the legal education system and greatly increasing the number of law schools, but it turns out the demand for lawyers never increased.

Japan adopted a new legal education system back in 2004 that aligned it to be more like the system in the United States. There was never a large need for lawyers before 2004 in Japan but more civil suits and court cases started emerging.


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The new legal education system created 68 new law schools that resembled the U.S. style. Their goal was to double the number of lawyers in the country, just 23,000 at the time compared to over 1 million in the United States. Previously, lawyers in Japan did not have to attend or graduate from law school but only had to pass a test, a very difficult one though. The new system required those becoming lawyers to obtain a law degree first.

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The problem turned out to be the demand for lawyers was much less than Japan expected, resulting in many government-subsidized law school to either shut down or be very close to it. The number of applicants was 72,800 in 2004 but has since fallen to 11,450. Japan tried to address this problem by enacting a new policy to limit the number of law schools so now only 54 schools are accepting students but the policy hasn’t been enough.

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University of Tsukuba researcher Masahiro Tanaka is worried that law schools aren’t doing enough. “If law schools are redefined as professional schools that foster personnel with advanced legal knowledge and background, the number of current law schools and slots for enrolled students would not necessarily be excessive.” Tanaka continues, “In other words, in order to increase the diversity of legal education, it is imperative to promptly arrange career support systems that allow law school graduates to enter occupational fields other than those of legal professionals.”




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