Overhaul of the law school system
In the early 2000s, the government implemented a reform of the national system for training legal professionals, launching law schools modeled on those in the United States for those aspiring to become judges, prosecutors and lawyers. Today, the government is exploring ways to overhaul the system in the face of declining law school enrollment – more than half of which has already been closed – and disappointing bar exam results by students who have completed the exams. two-year programs in these schools. .
The proposed changes would reduce the minimum period for students before they are eligible for the bar exam. Concerns have been expressed by those involved in training legal professionals, however, that the proposed changes could undermine the very purpose of creating law schools in the first place. In-depth discussions involving experts in relevant fields will be necessary when reviewing the law school system.
In 2001, the Judicial Reform Council called for the creation of postgraduate law schools to strengthen the training of legal professionals and maintain their quality as the government sought to increase the pool of legal professionals to respond to an anticipated increase in legal professionals. the demand for legal services in that country. He set a goal of increasing the annual number of people who passed the bar exam from around 1,000 at the time to 3,000 by 2010.
Previously, after graduating from college, many aspiring lawyers would spend years studying – including at training schools – for the extremely competitive Japan Bar Exam. After the reforms, people who completed four years in a university law department would take the two-year program in a law school to qualify for the bar exam.
The number of law schools launched by universities across Japan since 2004 reached 74 at its peak. However, 38 of them – mostly in regions outside major metropolitan areas – have since closed their doors due to low enrollment and reduced government grants based on the low pass rate of their graduates to the bar exam. Meanwhile, the government in 2015 abandoned its target of increasing the annual number of bar exam candidates to 3,000, halving the target to 1,500. Last year, the number of candidates who passed the bar exam. successful was 1,525.
Behind the poor registration and bar examination performance of many law schools lies the system created in 2011 to organize a “preliminary test” for people who wish to take the exam but do not have the means to do so. ” enter the Faculty of Law. The test was also aimed at expanding opportunities for people from other walks of life to pursue a career in the legal profession. Even though it was touted as an exceptional route to take the bar exam, the test has proven popular as a shortcut to the bar exam for people who studied law at a university.
Many talented students aspiring to become legal professionals have chosen to take the preliminary test instead of going to law school. In fact, the bar exam pass rate last year among those who passed the pretest reached a record 77.6 percent, while the figure among those who took two-year courses in most law schools was much lower – up to nine schools. no graduate passed the bar exam.
Now the government is considering revamping the law school system to attract more aspiring legal professionals, believing that enrollment in these schools is poor as it takes too much time and money to qualify for the exam. of the bar by taking this route.
A reform that is said to be under consideration would allow university law school students who have obtained all the necessary credits to complete the four-year course in three years to enter law school. Those students who meet certain conditions would be allowed to take the bar exam after completing the first year of law school. These measures would allow students to take the bar exam in about four years at the earliest after entering a university law department.
However, some experts in the training of legal professionals fear that such changes may undermine the purpose of training in law schools, which was launched also aimed at getting future legal professionals not to focus too much on skills. techniques for passing the extremely difficult bar exam. . Law schools introduced more hands-on education in which students worked alongside lawyers to discuss solutions to specific legal problems and participated in training at law firms.
Experts fear that time for such practical training will actually be wasted if students are allowed to take the bar exam before they complete the two-year program at a law school. They suggest that the government should instead revisit the way people take the preliminary exam as a shortcut to the bar exam.
Law schools were said to have been created not only to teach students specialized legal knowledge and skills, but also to develop in them a sense of responsibility and ethics as legal professionals. Careful consideration should be given to whether the revision of the system under discussion would serve its purpose.
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