Law

The Law of Japanese Subway Pushers

What are the legal consequences of this?

A reader in Quora has published an absolutely amazing answer to the question “What is it like to work as a “pusher” in Tokyo’s subway system?” If you have, or if you have not, been a part of the human toothpaste tube that is the Tokyo train system, read about it here.

For my purposes, it’s a brilliant contrast between Japanese and common law legal cultures. Imagine police officers in three countries are sent into the subways to check for criminal behavior, and they see the events in the video above.

That’s an assault in Canada.

A person commits an assault when (a) without the consent of another person, he applies force intentionally to that other person, directly or indirectly …

Under Canada’s Criminal Code, the hypothetical police officer just watched an assault. No question. That’s not how Canadians treat people! Of course, a Canadian judge would be free to interpret how the Code applied to these circumstances.

That’s an assault in the United States.

New York Penal Law §120.00 A person is guilty of assault in the third degree when: 1. With intent to cause physical injury to another person, he causes such injury to such person or to a third person;  or 2. He recklessly causes physical injury to another person …

New Yorkers are tough, and apparently don’t mind getting harmlessly pushed. But if the police officer asked around to find some injuries and evidence of injurious intent or recklessness on the part of Japan Railways (JR) toward the passengers, there’d be a crime. JR policy seems to be to solve every platform overflow problem by crushing people, so … that seems intentional. The Quora author reports that, “every ride, you hear about a couple people fainting from the heat/ lack of oxygen.” So there’s your injuries. (Assault in the 3rd degree is the least serious assault in N.Y. – just a misdemeanor.) As in Canada, an American judge would be free to interpret how the Penal Law applied in these circumstances.

In Japan?

Penal Code of Japan Article 204. A person who causes another to suffer injury shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than 500,000 yen.
Penal Code of Japan Article 208.  When a person assaults another without injuring the other person, the person shall be punished by imprisonment with work for not more than 2 years, a fine of not more than 300,000 yen, misdemeanor imprisonment without work or a petty fine.

In Japan, there’s just no specific definition of “assault” in the Penal Code, just penalties for whenever “assault” might happen. Is crushing passengers on a train an assault? Maybe? How is a police officer to know? Who’s to say? The law in Japan is “ambiguous and elastic … changed, shaped and sometimes distorted by policemen…”

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I AM the law.

Tokyo police are far from corrupt in the sense that kind of ambiguous legal interpretation might suggest in other nations. But if Tokyo police don’t, as a rule, get in the way of train workers doing their job, the Penal Code of Japan isn’t the reason. The police are guided by different, non-semantic legal principles. They’re guided by giri, the particular Japanese ‘collective sense of decency.’ Here’s a short burst from Meryll Dean‘s fascinating book, The Japanese Legal System:

The essence of [the place of law in society] is caught by Takeyoshi Kawashima who likened law in Japan to an heirloom samurai sword: there to be treasured but not used.[19]

However, the presence of law as an object of interest, even reverence, rather than an instrument actively to be used, implies the existence of some other rules for the management of society and settlement of disputes. In broad terms these are the rules of giri. 

[19] Cited by Haley ‘Sheathing the Sword of Justice in Japan: An Essay on Law Without Sanctions’ (1982) Journal of Japanese Studies 265, n 15 and from which he takes inspiration for the title of that article.

In Japan the meaning of words used in legal principles or in statutes is taken for granted by Japanese people as being necessarily ambiguous and elastic. Here, the people would not be surprised to discover that the meaning of law sometimes is changed, shaped and sometimes distorted by policemen, prosecutors, lawyers and by judges during the legal process. It is inevitable, of course, in every society that lawyers and judges have to change the meaning of law in order to adjust the existing law to a new set of circumstances after the original legal norms have appeared. In European or Anglo-American societies, however, the scope and manner in which lawyers or judges can change or adapt the meaning of the law to a particular situation or set of circumstances is limited. However, in Japan it seems to me that the limit itself is not as clearly established.

Kawashima, T,’ Japanese Way of Legal Thinking’ (1979) 7 International Journal of Law Libraries 127-31

More from Dean’s book to come.

 

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Calling All Aspiring JETs with J.D.s!

Mecha-hisashiburi’s to you all. The past several months have been intensely busy, with graduation, the bar exam, and following a bit of good fortune, the conclusion to a successful job search. Yes, a job. Happy days are here again. What happened, you ask? Well, I became a contented victim of the “companies are now hiring J.D.s” trend in this absolutely topsy-turvy economy thing we have going on.

In short: I’m going to be involved in the land acquisition end of the natural gas industry. Just picture a mix of the “Rich Texan” from The Simpsons, and the Monopoly man.

Or, picture this guy with a monacle.

Okay, enough navel-gazing self-congratulatory blog-spew. There’s a more important point to my posting: the future of this blog.

Here’s the rub: I am a JET alum, and I do have a J.D., but from here on out I am well aware that my free time to blog for the benefits of JETs and the Japan-obsessed will be sparse. Further, I’ve always felt that this blog lacked the breadth it could otherwise have. The JET program and the legal market is a nice niche, but it’s still an intensely broad area that, even when I had time to blog regularly, I couldn’t tackle all by myself.

Lastly, having talked with lawyers (both old and young) during the course of my law school tenure, I am keenly aware that lawyers’ perceptions of the legal market and the opportunities out there are at times vastly different from the perspective a law student has. I strongly feel that JETs with J.D.s would languish without a JET alum/law student involved.

This is a long and winding way of saying that I am looking for someone (or more than one someone) to take the reigns for this site. While another person interested in private-sector legal work is fine, I’d be really interested in seeing someone interested in public sector/public interest legal opportunities step forward. I feel the public service end of the law is an area where I have been less helpful.

A public sector preference is only preferred, though. All that I would require of a new blogger are two things: (1) that you be a JET alum; and (2) that you be in (or about to attend) law school.

Though there’s no money in it (never was for me 😉 ), there are some benefits to helping out. The biggest of which is contributing to this blog may be the best catalyst to do the one thing law students (and human beings in general) hate to do: network. I know more attorneys and other vital contacts than I would know otherwise because I wanted to have material to blog about and, while I would never name my contacts outright, there gems of wisdom are scattered throughout this blog for the benefit of all. I also believe I would not have received the opportunity I am currently undertaking if it had not been for JET alums and attorneys providing me with personal advice, scouring my resume, and guiding my interviewing style.

If you are interested, drop me a line in the comments, or just contact me directly.

I plan to still contribute occasionally, at least enough to keep JETs with J.D.s up and running. Many of the old posts to this blog are a valuable resource and worth keeping around, and I will do what I can to make that possible.

Finally, I plan to write something up about my law school and job search experience generally sometime in the near future, so look for that post coming soon.

What’s up with the legal market?

For JET alums trying to make out what exactly is up with legal education and the legal market: the Economist just had a great article that lays it all out. For frequent readers, this should be nothing you haven’t heard before: the financial crisis killed a lot of jobs, and the delay in a legal market recovery is hampered by outsourcing and clients clinging a little closer to their pocketbooks and not wanting to pay young associates.

20110507_bbp002The article, in full, is here.

[UPDATED: Things are looking better for 2016]

 

Japan Law Resources

Finally, a post that’s not about the job market! (though if you’re curious, the December employment numbers were generally good, even if legal is still categorically “meh”).

Came across these early this morning and had to share:

1) A lengthy, though tad unwieldy file from the University of Oregon that has a collection of Japanese laws, along with their names in kanji, romanized pronunciations, and English descriptions can be found here.

2) A site with the text of Japanese laws in their entirety, alongside the Japanese originals. Seems like a pretty handy site, though you’ll need some Japanese ability to navigate it. The link is here. Aim for [日英対訳条文] to access the resources I am referring to.

3) Another set of Japanese law and legal terms, sorted by kana and containing kanji and English equivalents can be found here.

See also this old JETs with J.D.s post for additional Japanese law translation materials.

Recent Developments: The Difficult Job Market

Bad news is never fun, but there’s always plenty of it out there, even when the market is up and last month saw significant positive job growth of around 150,000. Law jobs are still projected to lag behind, however, and a recent National Jurist article gives a pretty succinct explanation as to why. A brief snippet of that article can be found here, but one of the more salient portions explains:

Here are three relevant observations:

1. The traditional law firm hiring model (pedigree and grades) doesn’t do a very good job of selecting candidates who are likely to succeed as large firm litigators or corporate lawyers.

2 The traditional credential-based model is gradually being dismantled because clients are no longer willing to absorb the cost of bad hiring decisions.

3. The skills and behaviors you need to set yourself apart are not taught in law school—indeed, your typical law professor is completely unqualified to serve as your jungle guide.

The full article contains a fairly lengthy explanation of where the legal market finds itself today, especially in light of young or aspiring lawyers, and is well worth a read for that reason alone. This raises all kinds of questions for the individual considering a legal education, and should raise a lot of concerns as to the risks as well. Change comes slow to law schools, and to firms as well. But, the legal profession as a whole is undergoing serious, hyper-evolutionary changes, and their overall ramifications are still unclear.

For current third-years, who have watched the last two years’ worth of graduates leaving law school jobless and in debt, the likelihood that many of them will suffer the same fate seems a possibility, as noted in U.S. News & World in June:

Though official statistics will not be released until next May, the class of 2010 is likely to have lower raw employment numbers than the class before it, says Jim Leipold, executive director of the National Association for Law Placement. The employment for the class of 2011 will likely also be “very compromised,” he says.

“The Class of 2012 will be the first class for which we might see some kind of uptick in employment,” Leipold says. “I’m not making a prediction that it will recover in 2012; I’m saying it probably won’t recover much before then.”

The outlook has not much changed with the uptick in the economy as of recent, and it seems instead that the principle suppliers (the law schools) of the glut of lawyers are going to be under pressure to close as the unemployment woes of recent law school grads reach critical mass.

Slate also had a recent article chronicling the typical cautions and risks inherent in going to law school in the current economic climate that concluded with a similar premise that the market will have to level out.

These are the most recent developments I have seen on the employment front, and with the legal market under change, with lots of entry-level attorney jobs being shipped to India, with the large oversupply of attorneys already out there, law school seems to be daily becoming an ever riskier investment, even on the advent of economic recovery.

[UPDATED: Things are looking better for 2016]

It’s hard to admit it’s getting better: Legal Market Update October 2010

I’ve been holding back on doing this. Dreading it, in fact. The last time I posted about the legal employment market, the stastics out there showed little growth in May, and a dive back into the negatives in June. At the same time, the nation was dealing with a massive oil spill, Greek debt crises abroad, and latent unemployment everywhere driving what was supposed to be a “Summer of Recovery.”

Well, summer is at an end. The markets have been up for a month. Students who were fortunate enough to win the Summer Associate BigLaw lottery are looking at higher retention rates (and job security) and helping clear the field a bit for the 3Ls still looking for work. Legal employment numbers were also up for August and September.

But there’s still a lingering uncertainty in the stormy legal market. More and more entry-level legal jobs (and document review jobs that unemployed attorneys could rely upon) are being shipped to India. And then there’s that backlog of graduates from the last two years who have been unable to find work — those who haven’t given up on their dreams of legal employment may be coming back into the market to fight for jobs, even if their contract attorney work experience doesn’t carry much weight.

Sources near me tell me that even for low-paying legal secretary jobs at their firm, they are seeing hundreds of unemployed J.D.-toting applicants. It’s both an absurd and sad testament to the times.

So – are things on the mend? Probably so.

Are the nervous 3Ls who have watched the two law classes before them sentenced to unemployment purgatory beeming with excitement? Not yet, at least. And it’s fair to say not for awhile.

[UPDATED: Things are looking better for 2016]

Personal Statements: Don’t be a Law-o-phile

It’s law school application season, and there are plenty of applicants out there anal-retentively tending to their personal statements in attempts to make themselves sound like the beacon of light that law schools are searching for to join their class, maintain their ranks, and get all those fancy entry-level BigLaw jobs that haven’t been shifted to India.

So what makes for a good personal statement, anyway? Well, for applying to law school, you would think it would be saying how much you love the law, dream about the law, sleep with the law under you pillow, live, breathe, eat, drink, and piss law. All the time. Everyday.

As JETs, you should already know better, but if you don’t Yale Law School’s associate dean has kindly stated the obvious for you.

Reflect back on that moment when you first applied to JET. You had to write a personal statement, right? What did you write about?

I would like to imagine that after a little bit of internet research (or a few moments thought), you came to the conclusion that writing about your deep and profound knowledge and interest in everything Japan might be a red flag to recruiters. If the rosy expectations you expound on in your personal statements are going to clearly clash with reality, what’s going to happen when your expectations don’t match with reality? For example, if you spend half of your personal statement expounding about how you adore Japanese technological innovations, and ignoring (or not realizing) that you might have to live in a small apartment with no central heat and keep your toothpaste in the fridge to keep it from freezing, I might be nervous as a recruiter to how you might react when you find your placement doesn’t have flying cars and robots all over the place. Linch-pinning your personal statment to anime and manga interest has been a known red flag for years. Talking about your lengthy research project on the existential questions raised by Super Mario Bros. 2 being a near duplicate of Doki-doki Panikku would similarly be ill-advised.

So, too, with the law.

Lawyers don’t want to work around people who live and breathe the law anymore than your JTE would want to constantly hear about your opinions on DBZ or the anything else Japan-obsessive. Much like a Japan interest is almost implied in your application to JET, so too an interest in the law is implied merely by the fact your applying to law school.

Why waste a whole page gushing about your interest in the law, when you can cover the genesis of your interest in a short paragraph, and then spend time actually explaining your background, adaptability, work ethic, and academic strength: things that will actually help you succeed in law school, and help make the law school you go to end up looking good?

The entirety of the article from Yale’s associate dean is here, and is well worth reading. While I would love to pretend the advice is nothing more than Yale elitism, which some of the commenters have done, I cannot do so in the face of what I consider to be legitimately helpful advice.

Oddly enough, the one consistent piece of advice I have heard from law professors is this: if you want to stand out on your personal statement, say you’re coming to law school for the money. Almost every other applicant out there is so busy trying to sound like a resurrection of Atticus Finch that no one ever brings up the desire to come to law school to actually increase their earnings potential.

Other advice for personal statements can be found here.

And here.

And sample statements here.

Interview Advice from the Top 14

tie-690084It’s a tough market out there, everyone knows. And, with a tough market comes a tougher job interview. With On-Campus interviews looming — it’s time to see what the Top Fourteen law schools have out there for interview enhancement:

With a significant percentage of law clerks whose work gets questioned or reversed, Yale Law school has a sizable list of sample interview questions for you to consider.

Harvard Law School emphasizes certain characteristics in finding a public service job — the advice seems to be applicable to any kind of interview, however.

Stanford may want to unseat Harvard and Yale, but they don’t have much available online for interviewing.

Columbia gives us a link to 50 Worst of the Worst (and Most Common) Interview Mistakes. This includes helpful advice such as don’t light up a cigarette or bring your mom to the interview.  Wow.

University of Chicago keeps all of its resources behind a login. Boo.

NYU provides a list of resources you can consult in your search for legal employment.

UC Berkeley keeps everything behind a password wall as well.

UPenn Law too.

University of Michigan has resources in interview preparation, questions to ask, and what to do if you get a call-back available.

The University of Virginia follows the pattern of keeping their interview tips blocked to the public.

Duke has a fairly lengthy page of interview advice here.

Northwestern keeps most of its stuff blocked, but does have some interesting info available on various legal markets across the country, certainly helpful.

Cornell has some brief interview advice available.

Georgetown has taken the password protection route, too.

Enjoy. After all, if you interview well, you not only get to walk away with a job, but you can say the current unemployment rate isn’t in part a result of your lousy interviewing skills.

Law School Grades versus the Grade of Your Law School, Which is More Important?

As a prospective student, one of the hardest choices you have to make is which law school you will choose for enrollment.  While you naturally want to make sure the school you choose has the faculty and course selections you are looking for, how are you going to choose amongst the schools that meet those criteria?  The instinctive choice, one would think, would be to choose the school with a higher ranking.  Higher rankings open more doors, right?  And if “C’s get degrees,” what need is there to worry about taking  a hit to your GPA if it means you get a degree from one of the top schools in the country?

Not so, say two law professors. UCLA law professor Richard Sander and Brooklyn law professor Jane Yakowitz argue that the “eliteness” of your degree doesn’t matter as much as your GPA. When it comes to predicting career success, they say, it’s all about the grades.  So, while C’s may get degrees, it’s the A’s that get what pays, if you will.  My first reaction to this, not being part of an elite law school myself, was: “Excellent!”

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Choose your law school by the height and quality of its towering spires. 

My second thought was: “Wait … what?”

But before I can get to the major problem this study leaves untouched, for the uninitiated let me provide a quick bit about law school grading– which is vastly different than anything you experienced in your undergraduate studies.

 

(1): Nobody Fails Law School

Seriously.  Of course, like JET, every law school’s grading situation is ESID.  But, even with bare minimum effort, at law school you are guaranteed a C average.  Once you are in, it would take a far more concerted effort to fail — requiring you to get things blatantly incorrect on exams and plagiarize your papers to truly fail out of law school.

(2): Most Law Students Don’t Have an A-Average

Unlike your undergraduate years, a well-concerted effort in law school is no guarantee of an A. The undergraduate system rightly rewards hard work: put forth the effort and show mastery of the material and you will get an A, if your understanding is a little off, you might hope for a B. Law school, however, grades on a curve.  This is assuming your law school even has grades, but again, ESID on that. Most law schools set a curve where a few number of people walk away with A/A-, a glut of people walk away in the B range, and a few unfortunate souls get a C.  If you do walk away with a C, there is a slight chance that your grade may actually go up, retroactively, with inflation, but that’s a risky strategy not worth banking on. Moreover, because the whole system is curved, the law school grades aren’t a measure of competence or material mastery, but a competitive comparison of where you stack up against your classmates.

Add to that the fact that most people at any given law school are within the same LSAT range, and that means that if you go to a law school within you LSAT range score, you are competing against a couple hundred clones of yourself for a very finite number of As.

(3): Most Employers Know Both (1) and (2)

And hire accordingly.  Of course, one C on a transcript can easily be explained as an outlier and dismissed if the rest of your transcript shines accordingly– but a host of  C’s on a law school transcript will likely raise a red flag to potential employers.

But really, do grades outweigh eliteness?  Is it really advisable to take that lower ranked law school instead of that shiny Harvard or Yale law degree?

It seems that the study runs a great risk of being misunderstood.  Perhaps there is a correlation between GPA and the amount law graduates end up earning in the long run (which is what the study maintains), but the study doesn’t speak to your actual job prospects in the lower ranking schools as opposed to the elite schools.  The ability to earn more money with a great GPA from a lower ranked school is meaningless if you don’t have a starting salary to develop that from.

Certain employers, moreover, knowingly discriminate by eliteness of school. If you’re an Ohio State law student, for example, you can pretty much count out a Supreme Court clerkship with Supreme Court Justice Scalia.

My point is simple: a higher GPA at a lower ranked school might net you more money at some point, but it’s still the elite named law school degree that will open doors.  And, in an economy where the doors to the legal profession are few and narrow, the edge of eliteness cannot really be understated.  Of course, in an era where even the elite law students are begging for work on Craigslist, my guess is as probably good (or bad) as any.

JLPT Registration Starts TODAY

Registration for the December 2010 US-based Japanese Language Proficiency Test begins today.  Head over here to get your registration complete.

Information describing the substantive changes to the new test is available here.

Resources, including kanji and vocabulary lists for the new tests, are available here.