The Trials and Tribulations of Japan's Legal Education Reforms

38 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2015

See all articles by Daniel H. Foote

Daniel H. Foote

University of Washington - School of Law; University of Tokyo - Faculty of Law

Date Written: June 1, 2013


A sense of momentum accompanied the start of Japan's new legal education system in the spring of 2004. Less than three years had passed since the Justice System Reform Council issued its final report in June 2001, proposing a major restructuring of Japan's legal training system centered on a new tier of graduate level law schools. And less than a year and a half had elapsed since the details of the law school system were decided and enabling legislation passed. Despite the tight timetable, sixty-eight law schools were ready to commence operations in 2004, having arranged facilities, assembled faculty, developed curricula, and taken all the other steps required to complete the chartering process; and six addition law schools undertook operations the following year.

As of this writing in late 2012, the mood is decidedly darker. Five of the 74 law schools have closed or merged, or will do so in the near future, and have stopped accepting new students. Most other law schools have reduced capacity. For those involved with Japan's law schools, the optimism of 2004 has given way to considerable anxiety. This article seeks to explain how Japan's legal education system reached the current situation and, risky as the task is, seeks to offer some thoughts on where the system is headed.

Keywords: Japan, Japanese, legal education, law schools, law faculties, bar exam, legal profession, lawyers, attorneys

Suggested Citation

Foote, Daniel H., The Trials and Tribulations of Japan's Legal Education Reforms (June 1, 2013). Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, Vol. 36, No. 2, Pp. 369-442, 2013, Available at SSRN: or

Daniel H. Foote (Contact Author)

University of Washington - School of Law ( email )

William H. Gates Hall
Box 353020
Seattle, WA 98105-3020
United States
(206) 543-2261 (Phone)


University of Tokyo - Faculty of Law

7-3-1 Hongo Bunkyo-Ku
Tokyo, 113

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