Japanese and U.S. law schools at a crossroads
Japan Times -- Feb 02
Law schools in Japan and the U.S. find themselves trapped between a rock and a hard place as the number of applicants continues to shrink in the face of a bleak legal job market. As a result, all but the most elite law schools are being forced to take draconian steps to survive.

In Japan, cuts in government subsidies based largely on bar exam results are expected to lead to law school mergers. The step is seen as a necessary corrective to the oversupply of lawyers produced since 2004 when 74 new law schools opened in anticipation of increased demand for legal services.

In the United States, the 200 American Bar Association’s accredited law schools are questioning whether too much emphasis is placed on the theoretical over the practical. Possession of a law degree does not necessarily mean graduates are ready to provide legal services, even though three-year tuition can exceed $150,000.

As a result, the number of applicants is down by more than 37 percent compared to 2010. The future is no brighter. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there will be some 21,880 new jobs for lawyers by 2020 but more than 45,000 graduates by then.

In light of this dismal outlook, legal education in Japan and the U.S. needs a major overhaul. Law schools can raise their standards to admit even far fewer students, and bar exams can be made much harder, significantly reducing the supply of lawyers.

Both countries are already experiencing this outcome, whether by design or by coincidence. Japan reported that 1,810 people passed the bar exam in 2014. This was down by more than 200 from the previous year. In the U.S. the pass rate for 2014 for most states was the lowest in a decade.

News source: Japan Times
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