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In 1992, in an address at the American Society of Comparative Law annual meeting, Professor Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School bemoaned the state of comparative legal studies in the United States. Many scholars specialized in comparative law, she observed. But at Harvard and other law schools, they were like islands; they conducted research and teaching largely in isolation, having little contact with the core curriculum or other faculty. From the many nods of agreement. it was evident she had voiced a common concern.

Primarily due to increased globalization, the situation has changed. At many law schools comparative perspectives are being integrated into the core curriculum from the first year on. Glendon's own institution, Harvard, now boasts that over half the faculty incorporate comparative and international perspectives into teaching and scholarship. In the U.S. today, comparativists no longer are islands.

Sociolegal perspectives began to permeate U.S. legal education even earlier. Through the 1950s, doctrinal approaches dominated; but thereafter many law schools began incorporating a broad range of interdisciplinary perspectives. In the 1960s, Harvard, for example, hired professors with advanced degrees in such fields as sociology, economics, medicine and the humanities. That trend has continued and intensified. I recently compiled data on faculty at eight U.S. law schools; nearly 40% of tenure-track faculty members hired since 1990 hold advanced degrees (masters or above) in fields other than law, in addition to law degrees. These professors not only teach courses in specialized fields such as law and society or law and medicine; most also teach required first-year courses or other courses in the core curriculum. In those core courses, they frequently incorporate sociological and other interdisciplinary perspectives.

Far from being regarded as extraneous or a waste of time, these perspectives constitute a valuable component of U.S. legal education. Nearly forty years ago, Bayless Manning, fonner dean of Stanford Law School, identified six fundamental skills needed by "the first-class lawyer." One of those six was "awareness of the total non-legal enviromnent.', As Manning explained: "Every legal problem arises in its own unique setting of economic and political considerations, historical and psychological forces...The legal process is a part of a vast surrounding social process; the first-class lawyer never loses sight of that larger picture…” By incorporating interdisciplinary perspectives into core courses, U.S. legal education seeks to instill an "awareness of the total non-legal environment."

Turning to Japan, the situation for sociology of law today is reminiscent of Glendon's comments. Many scholars specialize in sociolegal studies. I sense, though, that most are like islands, conducting research and teaching largely in isolation, with little contact to the core curriculum. In the Japanese context, sociolegal scholars are by no means unique in their isolation. Legal education as a whole is highly compartmentalized. Scholars devote their lives to a given field. They seek to master every nook and cranny of that field; but most seldom venture very far beyond to explore other fields of law, not to mention other disciplines. As one scholar observed to me, in Japan one's identity is not "Professor of Law," but rather, for example, "Professor of Criminal Law" or "Professor of Civil Procedure" The compartmentalization is not limited to law, either. Interdisciplinary research and teaching are given lip service, but at many universities the invisible walls between faculties are nearly as solid as the physical walls that separate them.

In my view, excessive compartmentalization represents a serious weakness of Japanese higher education. Many fields of law are closely interconnected; focusing too heavily on a single field may leave one oblivious to those interconnections. Through interchange with other fields and other disciplines, moreover, one develops fresh insights. In 2002 I organized a conference that brought together, in Seattle, leading Japanese and foreign legal scholars from over twenty diverse fields of law. The discussions revealed numerous commonalities, along with some striking differences, among the fields. They also showed that many fields were grappling with similar issues, but the debates on those issues had largely been proceeding down separate tracks, with little interchange across fields.



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