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2014年9月12日 (金)

司法試験 法科大学院の不振は深刻だ

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Underperforming law schools pose serious problem for legal profession
司法試験 法科大学院の不振は深刻だ

A considerable number of candidates have been unable to pass the state-administered bar exam after completing their studies at law school. What should be done to address this problem?

Successful applicants for this year’s National Bar Examination numbered a modest 1,810, a decrease of 239 from last year. This year’s figure marked the first drop below 2,000 in eight years.

As part of its efforts to reform the judicial system, the government has sought to increase the number of legal professionals. The move aims to transform our nation from a society where social problems are prevented in advance with administrative regulations into one where such problems are checked after they occur through legal means.

But the number of lawyers employed by local governments and business corporations has not increased as much as anticipated. A large number of people are unable to find jobs after passing the bar exam.

Given the circumstances, the government had no choice but to retract its goal — of increasing the number of successful applicants for the bar exam to 3,000 annually — in July last year. The Liberal Democratic Party and its junior coalition partner, New Komeito, have proposed lowering the numerical target to 1,500. The modest number of those who passed this year’s test seems to partly reflect the LDP-Komeito move.

The government should consider setting a new numerical target after studying the issue from various perspectives while also considering potential needs for legal services.

The judicial system must be reformed in a manner that will provide people with easy access to legal advice whenever they need it to settle problems that may arise in their daily lives. If an increase in the number of legal professionals helps foster fair competition among lawyers, it would do much to improve the quality of their legal services.

The bar exam results this year are another clear indication that law schools, a central component in the production of legal specialists, are poorly performing in this respect. This is evident in the percentage of law school graduates — just 21 percent — who passed this year’s bar exam.

Preliminary test takers do better

Yet solid results were achieved by those who took the bar exam after passing a preliminary test. Success in the latter test makes applicants eligible to take the bar exam even if they have not attended law school.
This year, 163 people passed the bar exam after qualifying to take the test through their success in the preliminary exam. Among applicants who followed this path, 67 percent passed the bar exam.

The preliminary examination system was established as an alternate route to the bar exam, to allow candidates to qualify for the bar exam despite being unable to attend law school for financial and other reasons.

But in many cases, the preliminary test system has been used as a shortcut by university students and others who hope to save themselves the time and trouble of attending law school.

If more and more people seek to pass the bar exam after passing the preliminary test, it could shake the foundation of the current system for producing legal professionals. Efforts to reform law schools must not be delayed.

Some law schools have been increasingly inclined to withdraw from their field of education in recent months. The move has accelerated since last autumn, when the education ministry said it would curtail grants-in-aid to law schools whose graduates perform poorly on the bar exam.

There was a time when law schools bloomed, with their number peaking at 74. But the number of law schools accepting applications for admission next spring is expected to decrease to 54. It is only natural for law schools to quit if their students do badly on the exam.

There are also concerns about an anticipated decrease in the number of people wishing to serve in the legal profession, partly due to the declining popularity of law faculties at universities. It is imperative for universities and law schools to join hands in trying to attract gifted students through such measures as granting early admission to high-achieving undergraduate students.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Sept. 11, 2014)Speech


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