Urgent Recommendations on Policies for the Number of Legal Professionals
March 27, 2011
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
1. The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (JFBA) has asked the government and relevant agencies, and has made efforts itself, to develop the judicial bases and reform systems for achieving a “judicial system that is familiar, accessible, understandable, and reliable to the public.” This has resulted in the solution or improvement of geographically unbalanced distribution of attorneys, the establishment of the public criminal defense system for suspects, and a certain degree of enhancement of the civil legal aid system.
However, fundamental enhancement of the legal aid system, augmentation of court branches for eliminating regional judicial shortage, a significant increase in the number of judges and public prosecutors, fundamental reform of the civil and administrative litigation systems, legislation of substantive laws for it, and other measures for developing the judicial bases for citizens are insufficient, which means that the reform is still in progress.
The JFBA will remain committed to judicial system reform through reviewing the judicial reform previously carried out in order to correct what should be corrected, as well as by urging the government and relevant agencies to further develop the judicial bases.
2. Concerning the number of legal professionals, the number of successful bar examination candidates is rapidly increasing from the range of 400 - 500 between 1963 and 1990 to about 700 since 1993, about 1,000 since 1999, about 1,500 since 2004, and about 2,100 - 2,200 since 2007 (after 2006, the total number of successful candidates of the old and new bar examinations).
However, because the number of legal professionals increased too dramatically and the professional legal training and education system has not adapted to it adequately, there are concerns about "the quality of legal professionals." In addition, as judges and public prosecutors have not increased steadily and the judicial bases have been developed insufficiently, the rapid increase only in the number of attorneys disturbed the balance with the actual legal demand, which is affecting new attorneys trying to acquire the experience and ability required to practice law.
In addition, this problematic situation, which can be regarded as involving institutional "distortions," would have significant negative impacts on guarantee of the rights of citizens, who are users of the judiciary, and their trust in attorneys. Therefore, measures should be taken against it urgently.
3. The first issue is a concern that, amid the rapid increase of the number of successful bar examination candidates, the law school system and the new legal apprentice training system might not be functioning adequately as a professional legal training and educational system in terms of maintaining "the quality of legal professionals."
It is said that the number of law schools and their quota are currently excessive and that there is considerable disparity in terms of the educational content, quality of the faculty, and rigor of qualifications for completion of the course. It is also pointed out that some judicial apprentices actually do not have adequate fundamental knowledge and understanding, leading to a situation where a bunch of apprentices fail the final qualifying examination.
Of course, the existence of such judicial apprentices does not immediately mean that all the judicial apprentices who graduated from any law school have a problem in terms of quality. If there is such concern about "the quality of legal professionals" in terms of professional legal training and education with the current number of successful bar examination candidates, some measures should be considered for correcting it. Regarding the law school system, discussion is ongoing to review the number of law schools, their quota, educational content, and appropriate regional allocation.
As for the legal apprentice training system whose period was shortened to one year, many have raised questions or concerns about the methods and period of the training from the perspective of "the quality of legal professionals." Therefore, it is vital once again to explore how the system should be.
The number of successful bar examination candidates in the immediate future should be considered based on the points described above.
4. The second issue is that the so called job shortage for new attorneys might produce a mass of attorneys who lack sufficient experience and ability required to be a practitioner in the society, hindering the guarantee of rights for citizens.
The employment environment surrounding new attorneys is deteriorating partly due to the prolonged economic slump. As of the official registration day at the end of 2010 for new attorneys who completed their legal apprentice training in 2010, the number of those who had failed to register was 214, - 1.6 times more than those in the previous year. While this situation has been improved partly thanks to efforts by attorneys, bar associations, and other parties concerned, there are still concerns that the difficulty experienced by a large number of apprentices in finding employment at a law firm could continue and become still more severe going forward.
This job shortage itself may also be regarded as proof that the society has not created legal demand for attorneys as initially expected.
Needless to say, the job shortage is not a phenomenon specific to attorneys but rather a general tendency in the society as a whole. However, in order to play the role of protecting the rights of citizens and foster the ability as a practitioner to adequately meet the needs of citizens and of society at large, attorneys definitely require so called on-the-job training (OJT), through which they accumulate practical experience and develop their ability under the guidance of senior legal professionals. If they could not undergo such training due to the job shortage, a large number of attorneys would be sent out into society without sufficiently acquiring the experience and ability required for a practitioner.
5. These various institutional "distortions" that are currently found can also be seen as already lacking validity parting light of the section: "we seek to increase the number of those who pass the bar examination to about 3,000 a year by around 2010" in a cabinet decision in March 2002.
The JFBA proposed in March 2009 that the number of successful bar examination candidates be kept at the current level for the time being. In fact, it would be possible to address the initial concerns, i.e., the geographically unbalanced distribution of attorneys and response to the public criminal defense system for suspects and the Saiban-In (lay judge) system, even if the number of attorneys did not increase at the current pace.
Therefore, the JFBA recommends a slower increase in the number of legal professionals as a measure to correct those "distortions," while examining the progress of improving the judicial bases and the trend in legal demand.
6. Based on the above, the JFBA urges the government and relevant agencies to reduce the number of successful bar examination candidates to a significant extent from the current level as a tentative urgent measure.
The JFBA will continue exploring the number of legal professionals appropriate for the society, and discussing with the citizens and parties concerned, in order to develop policies that acquire understanding and support of citizens, and will strive to achieve a "judicial system that is familiar, accessible, understandable, and reliable to the public."