Japan to end bias at the Bar

February 13, 1998

Japan's most difficult exam is the bar exam. Only 746 candidates out of ,112 aspiring barristers, prosecutors and judges passed this year and, according to critics, most of them were males and from wealthy families.

Japan has fewer than 16,000 lawyers, or about one for every 6,600 people, compared with the United States, where there is one lawyer for every 300 people and the United Kingdom, which has one for every 650.

To try and attract a more diverse range of students, a panel of members drawn from the justice ministry, the supreme court and the Japan Federation of Bar Associations has met to thrash out reform proposals.

The panel has recommended an increase in the number of successful applicants from around 750 to 1,000 by 1999. But it still has to make proposals to break the rich male stranglehold.

Just under a third of this year's successful bar exam candidates are women. Over a quarter of the successful candidates were from the University of Tokyo, Japan's highest ranked university.

Most of the others were from a small group of big-city universities, including Waseda and Keio universities in the east and the University of Kyoto in the west.

The predominance of students from wealthy families is linked to high tuition costs in legal faculties and the fact that they are more able to afford additional after-school tuition at crammer colleges to help them pass.

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