Current Direction on Policy Regarding the Number of Legal Professionals—Results of the Review for Further Reduction in the Number of Successful Bar Examinees
March 17, 2022
Japan Federation of Bar Associations
The Japan Federation of Bar Associations (“JFBA”) compiled “Current Direction on Policy Regarding the Number of Legal Professionals—Results of the Review for Further Reduction in the Number of Successful Bar Examinees,” dated March 17, 2022.
Summary of Direction
1. As this point in time, the current situation does not indicate that we must propose further reductions to the number of successful bar examinees each year. As we all know, in order to ensure the quality of the process of fostering legal professionals, pass/fail decisions on the bar examination shall continually be made strictly in accordance with Article 1 of the Bar Examination Act, while not making maintaining the number of successful examinees from recent years as a goal.
2. When discussing the future of the Policy Regarding the Number of Legal Professionals, as pointed out in the reasons for this direction, the discussion should include a point of view which takes into consideration the workload of attorneys and the amount of job opportunities for lawyers, and the progress in judicial infrastructure development, while also noting the quality of the legal profession. At the same time, close attention should be paid to changes in the total population of Japan, changes in the population of urban cities and other areas and the number of businesses in those cities and areas, changes in the social situation related to the judicial system such as the progress in globalization and IT adoption, in addition to changes in the number of bar examinees and successful bar examinees each year.
3. We will continue to actively make efforts to increase the number of applicants seeking to become legal professionals and the number of female legal professionals, and secure diversity in the legal profession through promoting its appeal, while working on challenges such as expanding the fields of practice for attorneys, enhancing the coverage for legal expense insurance (legal protection insurance), strengthening civil legal aid, providing legal support to SMEs, promoting civil justice reform and enhancing the functions of court branches, increasing the number of judges and prosecutors, and creating measures to address depopulation and the imbalance of attorneys in communities. At the same time, we will also make efforts to maintain and improve the quality of legal professionals, taking into consideration the progress in the systemic reform of the process of fostering legal professionals centered on law schools.
Position of Direction
1. The government’s plan on promoting judicial system reform (approved by the Cabinet on March 19, 2002) presented a direction aiming for about 3,000 successful bar examinees each year around 2010. Reflecting the plan, the number of successful examinees on the 2010 bar exam was recorded at 2,133.
In the meantime, the JFBA released “Recommendations on the Population of Legal Professionals in the Foreseeable Future” on March 18, 2009. In it, we explained that the number of successful bar examinees should be maintained at the current level for a few years after the fiscal year of 2009 (1,851 and 2,065 successful examinees in 2007 and 2008, respectively, after the introduction of the new bar exam in 2007) while maintaining carefulness and rigidity in making pass/fail decisions, and an appropriate population of the legal professionals for the following years should be revisited for discussion based on changes in various circumstances. In addition, the JFBA released “Recommendation Concerning the Policy Regarding the Number of Legal Professionals” on March 15, 2012 (hereafter referred to as “the 2012 Recommendation”). In it, we determined that the population of attorneys was growing too fast when compared to the level of maturity of the system of fostering legal professionals, the actual demand for attorneys, and the state of judicial infrastructure development, and proposed that “first, the number of successful bar examinees should be reduced to 1,500 per year. Further reduction should be discussed while reviewing the level of maturity of the system of fostering legal professionals, the actual demand for attorneys, and the progress in improving issues.”
Later, the government’s Council for the Promotion of Systemic Reform in Fostering Legal Professionals released “Regarding Further Promotion of Systemic Reform in Fostering Legal Professionals” on June 30, 2015 and stated that necessary efforts would be made to maintain around 1,500 successful bar examinees each year for the immediate future.
With the above background, the number of successful bar examinees started decreasing in 2014 after being recorded at 2,049 in 2013, to 1,583 in 2016, 1,543 in 2017, 1,525 in 2018, 1,502 in 2019, 1,450 in 2020 and 1,421 in 2021, which are around a target number of 1,500.
2. The JFBA adopted the resolution entitled “Resolution to Address Issues in Concert to Ensure the Realization of Systemic Reform in the Fostering of Legal Professionals” on March 11, 2016 (hereinafter referred to as “the 2016 Resolution”) and decided to work on challenges toward optimizing the scale of law schools, improving the quality of legal education, securing diversity of law school students, enhancing legal apprenticeships and realizing non-repayable financial support such as salary, in addition to realizing 1,500 successful bar examinees per year soon.
On March 13, 2018, the government’s Central Council for Education Special Committee on Law Schools, etc. released “The Basic Direction for Drastic Improvement and Enhancement of Education at Law Schools, etc.” and presented a direction toward creating a systematic and coherent curriculum through enhanced coordination between universities and law schools and introducing the “3 years in university + 2 years in law school” system, allowing early entrance to a law school upon completion of the third year of university in order to help eliminate a temporal and economic burden on students, and improving education for those who didn’t study law before entering law school, etc. The measures presented are in the process of being implemented.
3. As stated above, the number of successful bar examinees has been successfully reduced and has reached the targeted mark of about 1,500 examinees per year set by the 2012 Recommendation. Systemic reform in the fostering of legal professionals presented by the 2016 Resolution is currently underway. The purpose of this direction is to present the JFBA’s current direction on how to address further reduction of the number of successful bar examinees, which is, as the 2012 Recommendation stated, a matter to be discussed after reaching the initial goal of 1,500 successful bar examinees.