Boston University School of Law

November 12, 2010

Improving Japan’s legal education system:
BU Law hosts Japanese legislators in U.S research mission

diet visit

BU Law recently welcomed three members from Japan’s House of Councillors—part of the country’s bicameral Diet legislature—as a part of an official research mission that took the delegates through Washington, D.C., Chicago and Boston.

Councillors Naoki Tanaka, Ichiro Tsukada (CAS ’90) and Hiromi Yoshida met with Dean Maureen O’Rourke on September 20, 2010, to learn about the programs and curriculum offered through the law school.  Part of their mission, which led the councillors to BU Law, was to look for ways to improve the legal education system in Japan.

“Prior to 2004, Japan’s lawyers got their entire formal educational training as undergraduates through programs much less rigorous compared to the graduate-level law school training standard in the U.S. and other countries,” said Richard Winslow, an advisor to the Consulate General of Japan who took part in the visit.  “Upon completing an undergraduate law degree, a prospective Japanese lawyer was left to study alone and take special crash courses to prepare for the exceedingly difficult law board exam and its pass rate of approximately one percent.”


The Japanese law school system established six years ago offers a three-year program—similar to U.S. law schools—for students who have not pursued a law degree as undergraduates.  For those who have obtained an undergraduate law degree, schools offer a two-year program.  With the new system of law training, the pass rate for the board exam has increased to 25 percent according to Japan Today, but the Diet hopes to further improve these programs and expand the number of lawyers qualified to navigate the increasingly complex Japanese legal system.

The visiting delegation was particularly interested in “the curriculum and what the University does to prepare students for their profession upon graduating, to prepare them for the bar exam, and to support them in finding employment after passing the bar exam,” said Winslow.  In addition, the counsillors learned more about tuition costs, scholarships and educational opportunities for BU Law’s foreign students. 

“The prevailing feeling is that the [Japanese] system can be improved even further,” said Winslow. Though the modernization of Japan’s legal system is still a work in progress, he is optimistic that the country is headed in the right direction. “The delegation was very satisfied by that meeting… Learning from Dean O'Rourke about BU Law School's program was paramount.”

Reported by Joe Mielenhausen

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