Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2009


Japan, Legal education reform


Legal Education


This article critiques the current Japanese legal education reforms, modeled largely on the United States, by proposing a socio-technical framework for analyzing the distribution of legal expertise in a given society. On one side of the spectrum is the "monocentric" model of legal expertise, in which expertise is monopolized by the profession and legal literacy is low. On the other side of the spectrum is the "polycentric" model of legal expertise, in which a range of social and institutional actors share responsibility for legal expertise and legal literacy is high. If the U.S. is a more monocentric system, the Japanese system has historically been more polycentric. The article evaluates the strengths and weaknesses of the two kinds of systems, focusing on the role of "legal knowledge workers" who are not professional lawyers in Japan. It concludes that although each system has strengths and weaknesses, a polycentric model of legal knowledge distribution is ultimately more economically efficient and better suited to the goals of a liberal democratic society than a monocentric model. For this reason, the rush to emulate the American system in current Japanese reforms is seriously flawed.

Publication Citation

Annelise Riles & Takashi Uchida, "Reforming Knowledge? A Socio-Legal Critique of the Legal Education Reforms in Japan", 1 Drexel Law Review (2009)