Inaugural Law Review Scholar Discusses Legal Education Reforms in Japan
December 15, 2008 — Japanese law-school reforms, modeled on legal education in the U.S., may offer useful lessons for improving our own legal system, a visiting scholar from Cornell University said during a visit to Earle Mack School of Law.
Professor Annelise Riles, the Jack G. Clarke Chair in Far East Legal Studies and Professor of Anthropology at Cornell, appeared on campus Dec. 15 to discuss a paper that will be published in the inaugural issue of the Earle Mack School of Law Review.
Riles’ paper, which she wrote with University of Tokyo Law School Professor Takashi Uchida, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of legal education reforms advanced in Japan since 2001.
Japan’s prime minister launched the reforms amid concerns about law-school graduates’ persistently low bar passage rate of 2 percent and the resulting scarcity of bengoshis -- attorneys qualified to practice, Riles explained.
A reform council recommended elevating legal education to a graduate-level program, increasing the ranks of practicing attorneys who teach law, reducing class sizes and encouraging greater diversity of students – features of American law schools, Riles said.
While the low volume of litigation in Japan has often been attributed to cultural differences and the high cost of attorney fees, Riles said that she and Uchida are constructing an alternative theory for modest use of the nation’s judiciary.
Mary Mitchell, a Earle Mack School of Law 3L and editor-in-chief of the Earle Mack School of Law Review, said Riles' and Uchida's paper, like some others slated to appear in the publication's inaugural issue in the spring, will focus on legal education.
The topic of legal education may emerge as an ongoing theme for the publication, Mitchell said, noting Earle Mack School of Law's commitment to creating a new model for training lawyers.
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