Thursday, October 29, 2009

"Law schools troubled by bar exam failure rate

"When the results of this year's national bar examination were announced in September, officials of law schools nationwide were stunned: Only 2,043 people, even fewer than last year, were successful.

"The success rate among applicants was 27.6 percent, the lowest since the new bar exam was introduced in 2006 with the stated aim of sharply increasing the number of legal professionals in Japan. Last year, the success rate was 33 percent.

"The gap in the success rate between top schools and lower-ranking ones remained huge, with those from the 16 top schools accounting for 75 percent of new graduates who passed this year.

"To achieve the government goal set in 2002 to gradually raise the annual number of successful applicants to 3,000 by around 2010, this year's figure was supposed to hit between 2,500 and 2,900.

"The 2010 target now appears hard to meet, and the results posed a serious question to law schools: Are they fulfilling their expected role as a pillar of the nation's judiciary system reform, along with a citizen judge system?

"Some officials and legal professionals call for a drastic reform of graduate-level law schools, opened in 2004 or later under a new judicial education system.

""It may be inevitable for those which cannot fulfill their role to withdraw," said an official of the education ministry, who suggested some law schools with low success rates may have to be merged with others or closed.

"The system of graduate-level law schools was established in April 2004 to nurture legal professionals with varied backgrounds and bolster their number while maintaining quality.

"The new law exam for their graduates started in 2006, with an expected success rate eventually reaching 70 to 80 percent of test takers, who have graduated from law schools.

"Under the old system, the bar exam was taken mainly by those who majored in law at undergraduate level. The rate of success was only about 3 percent, or about 1,000 applicants.

"Following the grim results of the new exam, the education ministry is requesting law schools to slim down and shape up so the rate of success will be higher.

"Behind the move is the idea there are too many schools accepting too many students, leading to a drop in quality of bar exam takers.

"According to a survey this year by the Japan Association of Law Schools, 65 of the nation's 74 law schools are planning to reduce enrollment by the 2011 school year.

"The total number of students admitted each year will be slashed by about 1,000 from the current 5,765.

"The new graduate law schools accept those who did not major in law as undergraduates for their three-year courses and those who studied law at two-year courses.

"The former was supposed to attract "high-level students with varied backgrounds," including mid-career people. But in fact the success rate for those from the three-year course was a low 18.9 percent, compared with 38.7 percent for the two-year course.

"The gap has discouraged those who already have jobs to go back to school to pursue a new career in the judiciary.

"It has also prompted some schools to shift their focus to two-year courses since they are rated for their graduates' success in the bar exam.

"Tokyo's Waseda University has put emphasis on non-law majors. More than 90 percent of its law school students did not major in law as undergraduates.

"After falling behind its rivals with more former law majors, Waseda Law School has decided to admit about 100 law majors for its 300 places next year.

"In 2011, the school will reduce the quota to 270, of which 150 are set aside for law majors.

""We take pride in the fact our system better served the new system's ideals, but the reality was fast deviating from the ideals," said Shuichi Furuya, a professor of international law who is in charge of the school's curriculum. "We cannot just sit and be left behind others."

"Many law school officials voiced doubts about the new bar exam at a meeting on Sept. 14 of a special panel on law schools of the Central Council for Education.

"Some asked if the new exam fails to meet the ideals of the judiciary reform that puts emphasis on law school education, after the old exam was under fire for requiring special test-taking skills to pass.

"Others asked if the pass mark may have been set too high, or if the Justice Ministry still values paper exam results more highly.

"Masahito Inouye, dean of the Graduate School of Law and Politics at the University of Tokyo, asked Justice Ministry officials if the government was really going to stick to its goal of 3,000 passers.

"There is a wide gap in views of where problems lie between the education ministry, law schools and the legal community.

"The Justice Ministry appears to put the blame on law schools; officials say the low quality of their graduates has led to low success rates.

"A case in point, they say, is a rising rate of failure in the final exam for a training course for those who passed the bar exam at the Legal Training and Research Institute of Japan.

"Last fall, 113 apprentices, about 6 percent, failed.

"The Supreme Court, which examined test papers of 2007, said those who failed were far from having the capability required to serve as legal professionals.

""The 3,000-people plan means nothing if they don't have the ability required," a senior court official said.

"Some top court officials say the education ministry is to blame for approving too many law schools.

"A lawyer who teaches at a law school in the Kanto region laments that some students have problems even in reading and writing.

""I am teaching while well aware they will never pass (the bar exam)," the lawyer said. "Whatever reform is done, the maximum for the annual successes will be about 2,000."

"While admitting the need for drastic reform of schools with low success rates, law school officials are wary the past emphasis on the rigorous bar exam may be revived. "The quality now required of legal professionals should be different from the past," said a member of the special panel.

"The basis for the government's goal of 3,000 successful bar exam takers a year, set in 2002, is to double the nation's legal professionals to 50,000 by around 2018. But critics say the basis for the figure is vague.

"The Japan Federation of Bar Associations in March proposed keeping the annual number at 2,100 to 2,200 for a few years because a sharp increase in lawyers has led to difficulty finding jobs.

"The new Democratic Party of Japan administration may review the plan as indicated by Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, who said on Sept. 18 the 3,000-target is difficult to meet by 2010.

""Legal circles, the education ministry and law schools are blaming each other," said a Central Council for Education member. "It is important to get back to the original ideals of the nation's judiciary reform and enhance cooperation between education and training of legal professionals and the bar examination.""

By Tomoya Ishikawa, Mitsusada Enyo, and Daisuke Nakai (Asahi Shimbun, 10/27/2009), Link to article (last visited 10/29/2009)


Humberto said...

interessante hein Marcelo!
por acaso vc jah chegou a ver ou fazer essa prova? Eh dificil mesmo???
Agora nao entendi direito a parte de Waseda, a universidade pode tentar 300 vagas no exame? ou 300 alunos no curso?

Anonymous said...

Celo, no começo, pensei que o texto fosse sobre o exame da OAB...