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Why the Japanese Law School System Was Established: Co-optation as a Defensive Tactic in the Face of Global Pressures

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In the face of pressures to expand the rule of law, in 2004, Japan introduced a new law school system in order to produce more and better qualified lawyers. This article explains why the new law school system solution was selected from among other alternatives such as reforming the national bar exam, abolishing mandatory legal training, reforming existing legal education, or redefining the jurisdiction of lawyers. I argue that the law school system was adopted because the legal establishment co-opted pro-law school scholars and other reformists. Although American-style law schools have been introduced in Japan, power has not yet shifted entirely from the legal establishment to the pro-law school scholars; while the legal establishment may no longer have absolute control of the Japanese judicial arena, it remains powerful because it successfully co-opted pro-American elites into judicial reform. By analyzing the case of the Japanese law school system, this article indicates that transplants of global institutions may often be more symbolic than practical due to co-optation tactics used by powerful local actors.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2009-03-01

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