Japan's New Clinical Programs: A Study of Light and Shadow
THE GLOBAL CLINICAL MOVEMENT, Frank S. Bloch, ed., Oxford University Press, 2010
17 Pages Posted: 10 Jan 2011
Date Written: December 2010
Japan instituted a new system of graduate professional law school education when sixty-eight new law schools opened their doors on April 1, 2004. The new law schools are an integral component of far-reaching reforms that seek to improve the administration of justice in Japan by increasing the number of lawyers, especially in grossly underserved rural areas, and better preparing attorneys for the practice of law domestically and internationally. Japan modeled the new graduate professional law schools after schools in the United States. A large number of the schools adopted clinical legal education programs -- also substantially influenced by law school clinics in the United States. However, the context for clinical legal education in Japan is very different from that in the United States. Japanese clinical education faces severe and sustained difficulties due to issues such as dramatically lower bar passage rates and substantial resistance to law students participating in the delivery of legal services to clients.
This chapter analyzes why clinical education was introduced into legal education in Japan and why it is confronting serious obstacles. It begins with a brief explanation of the recent reforms in Japanese legal education. It then describes the status and structure of clinical education in Japan and addresses various challenges to the future of clinical legal education. Next, it describes the teaching and service goals of Japanese clinical education and the current emphasis on simulation programs. Finally, it discusses some hopeful signs that clinical education is gradually taking root in Japan, such as the founding of the Japan Clinical Legal Education Association. Nevertheless, the chapter concludes that Japanese law schools are under strong pressure to transform clinical education towards a model that is far removed from the prevailing model -- in the United States and elsewhere -- in which law students participate in the representation of real clients. At this point in time, the future of clinical education in Japan is uncertain.
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