Against the purpose of the systemMany had high hopes as well as anxieties for the law school that opened three and a half years ago. To ease the downside risk, some are demanding that the government retain the existing state judicial exam that would have to be scrapped under the revised law in 2007. We should examine whether their arguments have grounds from a various perspective.
The American-style law school system was introduced after long study and deliberation in order to increase quantity, quality and diversity in the legal profession.
The law school system will only succeed when it replaces the current system in which any individuals passing the state judicial exam and completing a two-year apprenticeship at the Judicial Research and Training Center run by the Ministry of Justice can practice law.
Law schooling could fix various problems and controversies related to favoritism, nepotism and connections in the judiciary field because legal aspirants all come from one training institution. The exclusiveness also bred elitism in the old-boy network among members in the law profession. The new diversity in school backgrounds and a greater accessibility to the field are also expected to cut off corruption based on connections and revolving-door practices.
If the current judicial exam system is kept, it would go against the law and purpose of the law school system. The new system was adopted to make up for the shortcomings of a single exam and institution entry to law practice. When the current system is retained, all the preparations and efforts to establish a new mechanism in incubating law practitioners would be in vain. If the government surrenders to the demand, it would lose credibility and jeopardize the operations of law schools.
Law schools help foster individuals with broader intelligence and experiences to practice law. They are more productive in establishing law and order than the current system that issues licenses through a single test and institution. People with diverse undergraduate backgrounds and knowledge can join and contribute to broaden the legal field that has been traditionally limited to the three sections of court, prosecution and lawyers.
Those who argue the judicial exam be maintained claim that the two-path system can provide more quality legal services for the public. But when there are two paths to enter the field, law schools with shorter histories and fewer connections are bound to lose out. Rivalry among those from the state-run Judicial Research and Training Institute and law schools will likely be intense, exacting unnecessary and dangerous conflict within the judiciary field.
Critics of law schools argue that the schools are too costly and relatively less accessible to the working and middle class. But many national and state universities run law schools at affordable tuition rates. If schools widen scholarship and special acceptance programs, many from the lower-income bracket could get law degrees and licenses. They can actually be less time and money-consuming than the fiercely competitive and hard state exam.
Law schools are not perfect. No systems are in a trial stage. They must pay heed to criticism and address various problems. Authorities and experts in the field also need to integrate the positive aspects of the judicial exam into the law school system. But nothing can be progressive if a system is reversed at the beginning stage.
Translation by Korea JoongAng Daily.
*The author is a professor of Chonbuk National University Law School.
by Kim Yong-sup