A Short Conversation at a Cafe on Legal Education: International Style

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O.k., first, why in this metro area you will hear conversations about lawyers or law school (I know it’s concentrated with law schools but must we talk about it?) Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I was in line at a Chipotle and heard one woman speaking to another about presumable a mutual friend. Mind you they looked like they were 45+ years and I heard “she’s an executive” of something and some company oh and she’s a lawyer too, but she doesn’t practice. Oh, I’m shocked.

Today, I found a quaint cafe and decided to satisfy my sweet tooth. The cashier happened to be from Korea and since it was slow business (I was the only one in there) I decided to talk about the economy briefly when asked oh so what’s your field? The cashier was still in college but was explaining the difference between going to law school in Korea versus America. First, she said, their undergraduate degree is the law degree, I initially misunderstood and stated “pre-law” and then I figured it was a system similar to the solicitor-barrister track after LLB in England. They have to apprentice and practice in order to qualify for the exam from what I understood. The cashier stated that after that level degree they take a test then choose to be a judge or lawyer. That’s it. The cashier stated that here it’s all about getting a license, that the cashier’s friends who have licenses that’s all it is because they don’t have jobs and they don’t practice law. Nail on the head.

Reading the cashier’s face, there was a look of frustration regarding the U.S. system, like you have to go to higher education for seven years, take the bar, clerk or work a certain number of years then these tiers of associate, senior associate, qualifiers for masters, judges, administrative judges, etc. The cashier changed majors after learning about the U.S. system and it didn’t take a blog to do it.

p.s.: I did ask about student loans and the cashier stated they have it but not like in the U.S. and they don’t have to pay for everything in their higher education, in some ways you don’t here due to scholarships and grants, but you will always pay when it comes to law school.


  1. shu Said:

    Posting from Japan here. If Korea is anything like Japan, Law will be an undergrad major sort of like Political Science. It’s not all that surprising then that most who study law as undergraduates do not become lawyers. In fact, until very recently the pass rate for the Japanese bar was around 3 percent. Now it’s around 30 percent. In the past, everyone who passed got a job. Now, I’m not so sure.

    • A Law School Victim Said:

      Welcome commenter from Japan. Please share with us whether most going into the legal field in your country know whether the stas are against them and whether they incur a lifelong debt to go (student loans)

      • shu Said:

        Well, I should clarify. First, although I’ve lived here quite a while, I’m not Japanese. Second, there were a number of legal reforms five or six years ago which led to the creation of a lay juror system as well as U.S. style professional law schools at the graduate level in addition to the previous academic study of law at the undergraduate and graduate (M.A./ Ph.d) level.

        From what I gather, the original plan was to raise the bar past rate from roughly 3% to around 50%. The problem was that too many universities wanted to open law schools (although from what I hear this was more about prestige and saving their undergraduate law programs than actually trying to rape the students financially — as apparently many universities are losing money on their programs). There were also many more applicants than expected so the Ministry of Justice responded by lowering the pass rate to 30%.

        The last I heard, the first law school finally went under a few months ago — apparently not one of its graduates managed to pass the bar — but more law schools are expected to follow if they haven’t already. Again, from what I heard, nobody wanted to be the first, but it is much less shameful now that someone else went down before them.

        To answer your questions as best I can. I think that a lot of law students finance their studies though student loans. I’m not sure on percentages. However, law school here doesn’t seem to be any where near as expensive as it is in the States. But I will have to ask around to find out just how much it costs.

        As for the odds being stacked against them, students here seem to figure 30% is still 10X better than what it used to be and are willing to put their lives on hold to take the risk. The fact that lawyers are much more respected here than in the States may be one reason for this.

        Finally, you may enjoy this last bit of information. The Japanese bar uses a “three strikes” rule. Three failures and you’re done. I used to think that was for life, but I’ve recently learned that one can get three more bites at the apple by returning to law school and starting from zero.

  2. Manatee Joe Said:

    You do realize that quite a few states will give you a license as long as you are licensed in a foreign common law jurisdiction. There are many routes out there, 0Ls just need to be serious about their educations.

    • A Law School Victim Said:

      The cashier was doing LLB, still in school, hadn’t finished when trekking to the U.S. so it doesn’t apply as the person wasn’t licensed from their home country-was just starting their legal education, so wasn’t licensed there either.

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