Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Shortage of Lawyers

Here is a situation that Shakespeare might appreciate. A shortage of lawyers is plaguing Japan. Really? A New York Times article seems to suggest that.

One regression estimates that the optimum number of lawyers is 23 per 1000 workers. The U.S. has 38; Japan, 20; Germany, 27; France, 7; Hong Kong, 7; U.K., 12; Spain, 33; India, 34; Chile, 47.

Stephen P. Magee and William A. Brock. 1984. "The Invisible Foot and the Waste of Nations: Redistribution and Economic Growth." in David C. Colander, ed. Neoclassical Political Economy: The Analysis of Rent-seeking and DUP Activities (Cambridge, MA: Ballinger): pp. 177-85.

According to an estimate during the 1980s, lawyers constitute 42% of the House; 61% of the Senate.

Here is the article:


Onishi, Norimitsu. 2008. "Lawyers in Rural Japan: Low Supply, Iffy Demand." New York Times (29 July).

The article describes the arrival of a lawyer, Katsumune Hirai, to Yakumo, a northern Japanese town, population 19,743, had never had a lawyer before. Few people seem interested in his services.
Japan, in contrast to the United States, has long suffered from a shortage of lawyers, especially in the countryside. If it was not unusual for towns with five times Yakumo's population to have no lawyer, how could Yakumo hope to secure one just for itself? And yet, thanks to a national campaign to raise the number of lawyers, and to dispatch them to lawyerless corners of Japan, Yakumo welcomed its first one in April. The Yakumo Legal Office opened shop, behind gray blinds and under blue awnings, in the square facing the train station.

... half of Japan's lawyers are concentrated in Tokyo, leaving only one lawyer for every 30,000 Japanese outside the capital, according to the federation. The Japanese government is trying to increase the number of lawyers as part of broader judicial reforms that have included establishing 74 law schools since 2004. Under the system that will be abolished in 2011, anyone could take the national bar exam, though it was so difficult that the annual pass rate was about 3 percent.


8 comments:

Sandwichman said...

And the optimum number of economists is...

Anonymous said...

more importantly, the article says that it is the poor distribution rather than the lack of lawyers that is the problem.

Michael Perelman said...

But, then, why the effort to increase the numbers in the countryside? Shouldn't the country concentrate or reducing them in Tokyo?

John said...

Just a pedantic note on Shakespeare and lawyers.

You are not supposed to approve of "First we kill all the lawyers." You are supposed to be horrified.

Law was one of the liberal professions (that is, not clerical, aristocratic, or serf) and was socially respected.

It is a low person, Dick the Butcher if I remember right, who proposed killing lawyers to bring about some sort of revolution, an evil conflict with the Divine Order.

Sorry for the pedanticism.

Shag from Brookline said...

Mell's "Miss Peach" was one of my favorite comic strips. One that I photocopied and placed on a wall in my law office decades ago features a banner: "Future Lawyers of America Meet Here." Student Ira was on a dais, addressing his fellow students, one of whom asked: "What do you hope to attain as a lawyer, Ira?" His response:

"I hope to make my name a household word in the world of law. In other words, my ambition is to sue every man, woman and child in the United States!!"

My caption for this posting was:

"THE PENULTIMATE OF CLASS ACTIONS!"

Alan said...

Note that what it means to be a lawyer differs in different countries. Thus, at least when I looked into this some years ago, a person in Japan who had not passed the bar exam could nevertheless engage in what in the US would be considered the practice of law. They could work as what we call in-house counsel, i.e., employee legal advisers to business entities.

Anonymous said...

Of course, Japan has higher taxes, "socialized medicine" and a reasonable safety net so that an injured person isn't forced to play the "lawsuit lottery" in order to eat human food and have non-cardboard shelter.

Jack said...

I suggest that one's attitude towards lawyers has more to do with the type of law that is practiced. The corporate atty is a far cry from the plaintiff's atty. There is even more difference between the two categories when you take into account who it is that said attys actually represent. One can be a lawyer intent on obfuscating an issue in order to shield a dirt bag outfit or individual. One can be a lawyer working diligently, granted for a fee, to out some dirt bag corporation or individual who has been scamming the public.

It's like any other field of practice. Our government may be top heavy with the kind of person who sees legal training only as a conduit to power and influence. The influence aspect is probably more the focus of such a life. Influence can be far more lucrative and far less obvious than power. It's no surprise that Washington is awash with so-called
consultants who can get rich offering nothing more than access to government officials. Too many of those consultancies are owned and operated by former government officials and/or political fund raisers. Most practice a useless to the public kind of law, though they never see the interior of a court room. It is high pay for little effort.