Thursday, January 7, 2010

"Govt may lower bar exam goal

"The government may lower its targeted increase in the number of successful bar exam applicants of 3,000 a year, government sources said.

"The move reflects government concerns that a blind adherence to the goal could cause a decline in the quality of legal experts in the near future.

"The Justice Ministry and the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry will establish an expert panel in the spring to decide on a revised number of applicants who should pass the exam.

"The plan to increase the number to 3,000 from 2010 was originally approved by the Cabinet in March 2002 and had been a pillar of judicial system reform along with the introduction of the lay judge system.

"The Justice Ministry 's committee of the national bar exam had set the goal of gradually increasing the number of successful examinees each year.

"Setting aside successful candidates from the previous bar exam system, the number doubled from 1,009 in 2006 to 2,065 in 2008. But the number in 2009 leveled off at 2,043.

"The figure has never topped the committee's target number of between 2,500 and 2,900.

"If the number of successful examinees is increased, the examination's level of difficulty or minimum pass mark would have to have been lowered, causing the government to rethink its initiative.

"The number of graduate law schools has increased to 74, surpassing the government's initial projections, and many legal experts have voiced the concern that the level of education in the schools may have fallen.

"Though the government initially expected that 70 percent to 80 percent of law school graduates would pass the bar exam, the successful rate in 2009 was only 27.6 percent.

"Some legal experts voiced the fear that the low pass rate may deter talented people from entering law schools.

"In addition to the appropriate number of successful examinees, the expert panel will also consider a review of law schools' curriculums and the tightening up of achievement evaluation and completion tests in law schools.

"The panel is scheduled to finish its work by the end of 2011.

"The government will set a new target of the total number of legal professionals and successful bar examinees before the Cabinet makes a final decision on the matter.

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"Review confirms experts' fear

"The government's tentative decision to reconsider its plan to raise the number of successful bar exam applicants reflects the opinion of legal experts who have voiced their concerns about the deterioration in the quality of the profession.

"The Japan Federation of Bar Associations has pointed out that the current situation will not guarantee the quality of legal professionals, and licensed lawyers will face difficulty in finding work.

"Noting that law schools have mushroomed in the hope of taking advantage of the government's target to attract more students, a legal expert said, "Many of them have been unable to secure top-quality instructors and therefore the content of their courses is insufficient."

"However, there are many regions where lawyers are in short supply.

"Prof. Setsuo Miyazawa of Aoyama Gakuin University's Law School said, "To make it easier for the public to use lawyers, an improvement in the basic personnel employed in the legal profession is essential."

"When reviewing the number of successful bar exam applicants and legal professionals in the future, the government needs to pay attention to such points."

By Yomiuri Shimbun (1/6/2010), Link to article (last visited 1/7/2010)

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