"The pass rate of the national bar exam for applicants who passed the preliminary qualification test was nearly 70 percent this year, a clear contrast to the rate of about 25 percent for law school graduates, according to the Justice Ministry's National Bar Examination Commission.
"The panel announced Tuesday that the number of applicants who passed this year's bar exam increased by 39 to 2,102, ending a fifth straight year of decline until last year.
"When the new bar exam was introduced in 2006, only law school graduates were allowed to sit for the exam. People who passed the preliminary test without completing law school courses were allowed to take the exam for the first time this year.
"The preliminary exam, which was introduced in fiscal 2011, aims to allow people who have not completed law school courses to take the new bar exam. The exam aims to judge whether applicants have knowledge or skills equivalent to those of law school graduates. It comprises a short-answer section, multiple-choice questions and an essay section. The pass rate for the first preliminary exam was 1.8 percent. Those who pass the exam can take the national bar exam up to three times within five years from the next fiscal year after they passed the exam.
"Initially, the national bar exam pass rate among law school graduates was predicted to be about 70 percent to 80 percent. However, the low pass rate may increase a feeling of disappointment toward law schools.
"The number of successful applicants was the largest since the introduction of the new bar exam. While the overall pass rate fell steadily for the five straight years until last year, the figure increased by 1.53 percentage points from last year to 25.06 percent this year.
"The pass rate for law school graduates was 24.62 percent, while that for the qualification test passers was 68.23 percent.
"The number of national bar exam takers this year decreased by 378 from last year to 8,387, the first decline of applicants since the new bar exam started.
"With fewer students applying to law schools, a growing number of schools have reduced their enrollments. This tendency caused a decline in the number of applicants for the bar exam, leading to a somewhat higher pass rate.
"Among the nation's 74 law schools, Chuo University's law school had the highest number of successful applicants at 202, followed by the law schools of the University of Tokyo at 194 and Keio University at 186.
"The total number of successful graduates from the top 10 law schools accounted for about 60 percent of all the successful applicants from the graduate schools for this year's bar exam.
"For 38 law schools, meanwhile, the number of successful graduates was zero or less than 10, clearly showing huge disparities among law schools. The average age among successful applicants was 28.54, with the youngest and oldest at 21 and 63.
"Meanwhile, among 85 people who took the bar exam after passing the preliminary exam, 58 passed. Out of the successful 58, there were 26 university students and eight law school students. Nearly 60 percent of them were in their 20s.
"In 2008, the government decided at a Cabinet meeting to try to strike a balance between the pass rate for law school graduates and that for those passing the preliminary exam. With the latest results in mind, the government likely will relax the criteria to pass the preliminary exam to increase the number of bar exam applicants who have passed the preliminary exam.
More may forgo law schools
By Mari Sugiura / Yomiuri Shimbun Staff Writer
"The high pass rate of the national bar exam among applicants who passed the preliminary exam may accelerate the tendency for students to forgo law schools.
"The preliminary exam system was an exceptional system created for people who cannot afford to go to law school or those aiming to pass the bar exam while working.
"Instead of exempting successful applicants from completing law school courses, the preliminary exam sets a high standard.
"Considering that only 1.8 percent of applicants could pass the preliminary exam, it seems natural that such highly competitive applicants could achieve a high level of performance on the national bar exam.
"However, the latest results gave a strong impression that taking the preliminary exam could be a shortcut to the legal professions rather than going to law school, as only 25 percent of law school graduates could pass the bar exam on average despite the fact that many law schools have reduced their enrollments."
By Yomiuri Shimbun (9/13/2012), Link to the article (last visited 9/14/2012).