The first step to becoming a lawyer in Japan is to either complete law school or pass the Yobi Shiken (preparatory exam). Meeting this prerequisite grants you the opportunity to take the bar exam. Those who pass the bar exam then complete a yearlong traineeship, after which trainees take the Nikai Shiken (secondary exam), the final step to becoming a licensed attorney.
The primary barrier to becoming a lawyer in Japan is the financial burden aspiring lawyers take on before becoming licensed attorneys. Although annual tuition for law school in Japan is approximately $10,000, a considerably smaller sum than law school tuition in the United States, it is expensive when considering the median income in Japan (¥4,270,000 according to Japan’s Ministry of Health, approximately $34,350), as well as costs beyond tuition.
Top-tier law schools are concentrated in metropolitan cities (think Tokyo and Osaka). Law students from these cities bear high living expenses while completing their degrees. Academic workload makes working part-time during law school challenging, forcing students to depend on their parents or loans to finance their degrees. Working part-time only increases the risk of failing classes. Of note, there are law schools with nearly a third of students repeating the year.
At first glance, forgoing law school and taking the preparatory exam may be a cheaper alternative. However, the pass rate of the preparatory exam is a mere 3 percent. It is considered nearly impossible to pass the exam without professional coaching. Enrolling in preparatory tutoring and seminars often costs just as much as law school tuition.
The financial burden of becoming a licensed attorney does not stop after the bar exam. During the required yearlong traineeship, trainees are not allowed to have a part-time job and are instead provided a monthly stipend of $1,300 (the average cost of living in Tokyo is about $1,400/month). For some trainees, limited stipends must also cover moving costs and rent if their assignment requires a cross-country move.
With a countrywide bar exam pass rate of about 30 percent, many may give up on pursuing their dream of becoming a lawyer in the face of these financial burdens.
Every year, thousands of students embark on a five-and-a-half-year journey to become an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya. The legal education program in Kenya is delivered through an undergraduate degree program that awards graduates a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a post-graduate advocates training program. Upon successful completion of the latter, students are admitted to the bar.
During the undergraduate law program, several law units introduce students to various sectors of law. Students also undertake a mandatory judicial attachment and legal clinic to ensure they get firsthand experience on how laws are interpreted and applied in society.
The Kenya School of Law delivers post-graduate training for lawyers called the Advocates Training Program (ATP). The ATP prepares law graduates for the written bar examinations, and, once completed, graduates are required to undergo a pupillage program for six months. Once lawyers meet the minimum requirements set out in the Advocates Act Cap. 16 Part IV, they are prepared for subsequent entry to the Roll of Advocates and are accorded the title “Advocate of the High Court of Kenya.”
However, the journey to the bar involves a persistent challenge of high fee structures with little to no scholarships provided to ease the burden (while at institutions lacking quality control). At the end of every semester, students are kicked out of examination rooms for fee balances, leading to graduation delays and, in some instances, students dropping out of the program altogether. Additionally, law practice in Kenya for a newly admitted advocate is not very lucrative, making payments on loans a huge burden.
The minimum requirements to practice as a lawyer in South Africa are the completion of an LLB, two years of articles or a one-year apprenticeship, and admission to the bar, subject to meeting the ethical requirements of being “fit and proper.” A closer look exposes the inequities in access to the legal profession.
Like in other jurisdictions, a single undergraduate degree in law is insufficient to enable prospective lawyers to compete in the job market. Many law schools in South Africa advise prospective students to complete a three- or four-year undergraduate degree before enrolling in the LLB. The Rhodes Faculty of Law consists almost entirely of students completing their LLB as a second degree or taking law courses as part of a humanities, science, or commerce undergraduate program.
These circumstances disadvantage aspiring lawyers who are unable to finance a second qualification. Historically, those from households earning below R360,000 ($24,200) qualified for government-funded financial aid (NSFAS). In April 2021, however, NSFAS discontinued funding for the LLB as a second qualification.
The sudden and dramatic change in government funding of legal education has placed thousands of law students at risk of being financially excluded from the practice of law. In many instances, these students are now housing, food, and job insecure. The inaccessibility of student loans to low-income households means many students are left without a solution.
Barriers to entry persist after graduation, into articles and apprenticeships. The median “candidate attorney” earns R13,000 ($875) per month, with many earning as low as R4000 ($269) a month. Graduates from lower-income households are therefore pressured into seeking employment in other sectors rather than pursuing their required articles or apprenticeships.
The persistence of inequality in access to the legal profession highlights South Africa’s continued inability to realize substantive justice and equality post-apartheid in its democratic dispensation.
—María Eugenia Gitto
The University of the Republic is Uruguay’s only public and cost-free higher education and research institution. Historically, it was the country’s only university, with its facilities located in the capital city of Montevideo. However, a greater part of the population now has access to higher education with the expansion of the University of the Republic to other parts of the country and the creation of new private universities.
In addition to no-cost tuition at the University of the Republic, scholarships may be granted to low-income students to cover living expenses. To finance these scholarships, University of the Republic graduates pay a special tax starting their fifth year after graduation. Although tuition is not free at private institutions, they may provide scholarships based on academic excellence and need-based scholarships.
Unlike other educational models, an “undergraduate” degree does not exist in Uruguay. To enter university, students must complete high school and enroll in the specific graduate course of study they wish to pursue. Both public and private universities offer students the possibility to obtain their law degrees in five years. Toward the middle of their studies, students receive an intermediate degree, allowing them to perform certain legal tasks, such as assisting lawyers in court. During the last year of their studies, students must be part of a legal clinic organized by the universities, which allows them to gain professional experience prior to graduation.
After graduating and receiving their qualifying degree, law candidates need only enroll and take an oath before the Supreme Court of Justice. Once sworn in, the Registrar of the Supreme Court issues the license allowing qualified lawyers to practice law under the title of Lawyer (Abogado) throughout the entire country.
Generally speaking, Uruguay’s educational system allows people from all socioeconomic backgrounds and natives of any part of the country to become lawyers.