Washington International Law Journal


In the United States, the 2008 financial crisis had a serious impact on a legal profession that had been growing strongly for three decades, highlighting fundamental issues concerning the business and educational models of both law firms and law schools. This raises the interesting question of how Japan, with its much shorter history of large law firms and professional law schools, has been affected by the 2008 financial crisis and the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear reactor crisis. At a recent conference sponsored by the University of Washington School of Law and the law firm of Perkins Coie, a distinguished group of legal practitioners from the leading Japanese and foreign law firms in Tokyo engaged in a panel discussion on the current state of Japan’s legal profession. The panelists saw both the 2008 financial crisis and the Tōhoku earthquake as “one-time” events that will not have a significant longterm impact. The 2008 financial crisis, although it had a lesser economic impact in Japan, raised fundamental issues similar to those in the United States concerning the appropriate models for large law firms and law schools. Despite a number of current problems, the panelists supported the goals and direction of recent Japanese reforms, which have overhauled the system of legal education and increased the number of lawyers, and they explicitly embraced a new model for the legal profession: rather than the traditional small elite with a narrow societal role, the Japanese bar would be significantly expanded and compete to fill a wide range of law-related roles in society

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