Law: Land Without Lawyers

A reluctance by all parties to use the ceremonial sword

American parents are fond of telling their college-bound children, "We'll always need lawyers." Partly as a result, there are 600,000 practicing attorneys in the U.S., or one for every 400 Americans. Most Japanese parents, by contrast, are barely aware of the profession.

Amazingly, in this highly competitive and complex island society, there are a mere 12,500 attorneys in private practice, roughly one for every 10,000 citizens. Most Japanese live—and die—without ever having seen a lawyer. Humorist Russell Baker recently suggested curing the imbalance by...

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