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Japan Seeks to Add Lawyers and Dispatch Them Beyond Cities

Posted Jul 29, 2008 10:50 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Japan has a goal of licensing 3,000 new lawyers a year and sending some of its law graduates to underserved rural areas to practice.

Toward that end, the country opened 74 new law schools in the last four years and reformed the bar exam, the New York Times reports. The exam had been open to anyone but was so difficult that only about 3 percent were able to pass.

The number of new lawyers is falling short of the goal. Yet some law graduates are still being dispatched to towns such as Yakumo in northern Japan, which never had a lawyer until lawyer Katsumune Hirai arrived in April.

On a per capita basis, the number of legal professionals in Japan is about one-third the number of lawyers in the United States, the story says. In Japan, tax accountants and notaries perform some work that lawyers do in the United States, and the comparison includes those professionals.

Outside of Tokyo, there is only one lawyer for every 30,000 people. Now Hirai is one of them. He located his office so it faces the train station in Yakumo, a town with a population of about 20,000. He hopes the prominent location will combat the idea that seeing a lawyer is shameful. “If I’d settled instead in a more secluded part of town, people might think that this is a shady business after all, and that I’m a bad guy,” he told the Times.

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