Reading Japanese Law, taught in Japanese by Prof. Atsushi Kinami of Kyoto University, is among the courses in comparative and foreign law offered at Michigan. Other offerings include a Law and Japanese Studies dual degree and a semester-abroad program at Waseda University Law School in Tokyo. In addition, approximately one-third of all Michigan Law faculty have participated in the School's exchange program with the University of Tokyo.
– Mark West, Dean and Nippon Life Professor of Law
Japanese Legal Studies Program
Dean Mark West
Michigan Law has longstanding ties with Japan. The first two Japanese students graduated in the class of 1878, and two of the first six students to receive the LLM degree were Japanese. More than half of our faculty has taught in Japan, many as part of our faculty exchange with the University of Tokyo
. Our library has acquired an outstanding collection of books, serials, and computer databases on Japanese law, while our student body includes Japanese graduate students from government, academia, private law firms, and companies, as well as many U.S. law students who are fluent in Japanese or have spent substantial time in Japan. Our Japanese alumni continue to play an important role in the intellectual and institutional life of the Law School.
Students interested in studying in Japan may spend one semester studying at Waseda University Law School for transfer credit toward their JD degree. Semester study at Waseda may complement the extensive curricular offerings in Japanese studies at the Law School and the University.
Students may pursue concurrent work in the graduate program in Japanese Studies and the Law School, leading to both the MA and the JD degrees. This joint program recognizes the growing need for specialists who combine training in law with substantive knowledge of Japan.
The University's Center for Japanese Studies, established in 1947, coordinates nearly 100 courses in various disciplines relating to Japan, including business, economics, language, anthropology, political science, and sociology. Second- and third-year students may, with the approval of the Associate Dean through the Registrar, elect up to 12 hours of credit in courses that are acceptable for graduate credit in other departments within the University. Approval is normally granted upon a determination that the course is relevant to or will contribute to the education of a lawyer. Dean West served as director of the Center from 2003 to 2008.
For nearly two decades, the Law School has formally maintained a faculty exchange relationship with the University of Tokyo Faculty of Law. This program is a unique opportunity for students to meet experts on many fields of Japanese law, as well as to discuss comparative issues with regular Law School faculty who have taught in Japan (nearly half of the faculty have done so, and many have published scholarship in Japanese).
The Law School regularly hosts visitors from several prominent Japanese institutions, including Professors Atsushi Kinami (Kyoto University) and Yukiko Tsunoda (Meiji University and Tanaka & Partners), former Supreme Court of Japan justices Itsuo Sonobe and Gen Kajitani, and many prominent practitioners. These institutional ties create a wide range of connections for students interested in study or employment in Japan.
Each year, the Law School invites several outstanding Japanese students to pursue an LLM degree or study as research scholars. These students, each of whom excelled in legal education in Japan, include lawyers, judges, prosecutors, government officials, and members of legal departments of prominent Japanese corporations. These visiting students serve as an invaluable resource for students interested in the study of Japan and Japanese law.