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.

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.

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.

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

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.”


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