I bring you fresh greetings from our friends in Japan! Yesterday, I returned from NITA’s 2014 trip, where Mike Ginsberg, NITA’s Board Chairperson, and I taught a demonstration program on storytelling. Our schedule encompassed case analysis and storytelling, and direct and cross-examination.
NITA has visited Japan at the invitation of our exchange partner, PSIM, each year since at least 2008 to meet with law professors and to teach a NITA program. NITA shares a close friendship with our hosts and other legal education leaders of Japan. In this June 20 posting, I not only narrate NITA’s global impact in Japan, but also give a “shout out” to our marvelous hosts. Yoshiharu Matsuura Sensei, and Ikuo Sugawara Sensei, founded PSIM, and serve as professors of law at Nagoya University (Nagoya is the third largest city in Japan, lying just southwest of Tokyo). Akira Fujimoto Sensei, who succeeded Professor Suguwara as director of PSIM in 2014, is focused closely on experiential learning. Yoshiko Ohashi, PSIM’s very experienced staff professional, keeps all the trains (and planes) running on time, and exemplifies Japanese hospitality at its highest level. Our thanks go to each of you, and to your marvelous PSIM colleagues.
This year, our NITA-PSIM program involved twelve young lawyers in our intense trial training. A few of these fine advocates are recent graduates working in their apprenticeships for the bar requirements, and a number are already in practice. Working through interpreters, they with their dual familiarity with English, and we with embarrassingly no knowledge of Japanese, accomplished much in one day. They melded a courtesy and reserve appropriate to Japanese meetings with the kind of enthusiasm and explosive brilliance that rockets a NITA participant to new highs in advocacy. At the post-program party, several inquired about how to take a full program in the U.S. (we eagerly await their registration!), and all stayed to enjoy the team camaraderie that commands the room when the group completes a NITA program. We express our thanks for the hospitality of Ehime University’s Shikoku Law School, in Matsuyama.
The day before, I presented a lecture to PSIM member professors from around the country, gathered for this annual seminar. My topic was “Gaining Experience in Teaching Experientially: How Can Professors Connect Law School to Legal Practice?” Largely lecture-based to date, Japanese law schools are addressing issues similar to those seen by U.S. law schools – but the bar passage rate in Japan is about 25%. There seems not enough time to teach all of the substance needed for the bar, yet at the same time a need to move gradually from lectures as the norm to a more student-involving instructional method. Our two nation’s law school cultures are very distinct, reflecting our general cultures and practice. Yet we join our Japanese colleagues in asking, each for our own culture, what is the proper role of experiential education and how can we squeeze it into the course of study? My speech advocated that “applied” learning amid the doctrinal class syllabus allows the students to immediately apply a set of concepts known best by the theoretical professor. I argued that, as an adjunct professor, I have wanted to see the students “apply” the principles I teach right there, in class, while they are learning and while I still have them under my control. What better way could there be to guide them on what they have to absorb from the lectures and class discussions? What better way to convey the subtleties of the legal theory than when it becomes central to an issue that they must solve in a class “practice” lab? What better way to ask them to think in ways such that they come to own the legal principles, and to keep them interested in the area of practice? Applied learning in the doctrinal class, while the students still have the professor to guide them on substance of the law, is an optimal use of time.
The day after, leaders of the Japan Bar Federation were gracious in hosting me for a condensed and valuable discussion of their work in advancing advocacy. Thank you too, for your hospitality.
NITA’s global impact continues elsewhere this year. We will return to teach solicitor-advocates in Northern Ireland as a part of the Law Society’s support of court reform to allow such advocates to represent clients in cases of higher jurisdiction. We will return to Kenya to continue our multi-year Rule of Law program teaching prosecutors, defense lawyers, and judges. Kenyan faculty who teach alongside us have themselves taken the NITA program over the years. Other programs are in the works. NITA is exceedingly proud of our global impact, where we seek to help advance justice in ways that resound with the culture and maturity of the legal systems of selected countries.
And yes, spring in Japan is glorious, given the native Japanese cherry trees everywhere!
Thank you, and please come visit NITA! The National Program (at Boulder) starts on July 23 and is shaping up to be a large and exciting group! Alert your colleagues to enroll soon –
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy