法科大学院 少数精鋭で質の高い教育を

The Yomiuri Shimbun(Jul. 26, 2009)
Law schools must put quality before quantity
法科大学院 少数精鋭で質の高い教育を(7月26日付・読売社説)

To ensure our judicial system functions as it should, capable judges, prosecutors and lawyers must be nurtured. So it is inevitable that law schools that play an insufficient role in training these much-needed workers in the legal field will be culled.

The number of applicants for the nation's 74 law schools for the 2009 academic year fell 25 percent from the previous year, marking the first time applications have fallen below 30,000.
Out of the total, the ratio of total applicants to successful applicants fell below two to one at 42 schools. At one law school that offered 30 places, only five were filled.

The entrance exam process for law schools for the 2010 academic year will begin soon, but it seems the number of applicants will remain low. Law schools were introduced in 2004 as a key pillar of judicial system reform, but they likely have reached a watershed earlier than expected.

All law school graduates are eligible to sit the national bar examination, for which the pass rate was initially predicted to be about 70 to 80 percent. However, the actual pass rate has fallen far short of this mark, with the rate last year a mere 33 percent.

Under the current circumstances, students who are studying at law school are far from guaranteed a place in the legal field, which inevitably leads to a decline in applicant numbers.


Vicious circle

Law schools are required to teach students the basics of the legal profession, giving them a good grounding in legal theory and practice, and not placing undue weight on preparations for the bar exam.

If law schools cannot attract high-quality applicants, they will have no choice but to accept less capable students. Under such circumstances, students with less aptitude than courses have been designed to accommodate would have to sit the bar exam without receiving sufficient training and, as a result, likely would fail. It really is a vicious circle.

The Central Council for Education has asked law schools whose ratio of total applicants to successful applicants falls below two to one to cut the number of students allowed to enroll. So far, about 50 law schools have decided to cut their intake quotas. This is to be expected as a way of ensuring the quality of students.

The root cause of this vicious circle is that possibly all 74 of the nation's law schools currently fail to meet the necessary standards. The trend of applicants not enrolling at law school will increase if law schools cannot produce good results. Therefore, a number of law schools will struggle and some are bound to fail.

The government should actively promote the reorganization and integration of law schools.


Quotas to be raised

The government plans to increase the number of places on offer to those who sit the bar exam from about 2,000 in 2008 to 3,000 in 2010. This plan should be firmly adhered to as a way of addressing the uneven distribution of lawyers across the nation, brought about largely by the concentration of lawyers in urban areas, as well as other problems.

In doing so, the question of how to halt the declining quality of successful applicants will need to be addressed.

Every law school should be required to implement an advanced education program for a few select, highly capable students.

From the 2011 academic year, a preliminary examination system will be introduced that will ensure that even those who do not graduate from law school can still sit the bar exam if they pass a preliminary exam. If a high number of students choose to sit the preliminary test, the very reason for law schools existing will be called into question.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, July 26, 2009)
(2009年7月26日01時20分 読売新聞)

by kiyoshimat | 2009-07-26 07:36 | 英字新聞

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