More lawyers needed

Given the size of its population, Japan, with just 25,000 lawyers, 3,200 judges and 2,400 public prosecutors, has far fewer legal professionals than do Western industrial nations.

What this shortage of lawyers means is that unless people can find reliable legal professionals in their community, the ideal of making judicial services easily accessible to all is just pie in the sky.

Aiming to improve the situation, the government has crafted a policy to increase the number of legal experts to 50,000 by around 2018. To achieve that, the plan calls for raising the number of individuals who pass bar examinations to 3,000 per year.

Last year, 2,099 passed bar exams.

But now the Japan Federation of Bar Associations says that number is too large. It has called for the government to scale back the pace of growth in the legal profession for the time being.

The federation will shortly submit a proposal to the Justice Ministry, which oversees the national bar exams.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura opposes the move.

“I doubt the federation’s judgment in this matter. It is acting in a way that is totally inconsistent with its involvement in judicial reform by suddenly making such a proposal,” Machimura said recently. This criticism is valid, and the government should not change its policy of increasing the number of people who pass bar exams.