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Top>People>A Graduate of the Chuo University Correspondence Division Becomes a California Attorney


A Graduate of the Chuo University Correspondence Division Becomes a California Attorney

Kazumi Takahara
Staff member at the U.S. Navy Region Legal Service Office Japan (California-licensed Attorney)

From the Chuo University Correspondence Division to University of Hawaiʻi William S. Richardson School of Law

My desire to work in a legal office on a U.S. military base was the reason why I pursued the bachelor of law degree in the Correspondence Division of the Chuo University Faculty of Law.

I made the decision when I was working on a U.S. Army base in Japan. I used my leave of absence to take summer and short-term courses in the university. I truly enjoyed attending the courses and learning from outstanding professors who usually teach full-time students. The experience intensified my desire to work in the field of law. My wish came true when I was in my last year of study at the university. I was transferred to the Naval Legal Service Office on a U.S. Naval base in Japan.

In the Legal Service Office, I worked with U.S. attorneys to provide legal advice to U.S. military personnel and their family members. As I became accustomed to working at the office, my desire to study the laws of the United States grew stronger. I began to consider studying at an American law school.

Similar to law schools in Japan today, law schools in America are professional graduate schools for those with undergraduate degrees. When I graduated from the Faculty of Law, there were no law schools in Japan, and a bachelor of law degree in Japan was considered equivalent to a Juris Doctor (JD) degree from a U.S. law school. Those who have a bachelor of law degree from a Japanese university were able to enter the master of law program (LL.M.) in an American law school.

There are two types of LL.M. programs; one is for foreign students to study general American legal systems and the other is for law school graduates to advance their studies in specific fields of law. I chose William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi to undergo the former program. I took leave of absence without pay for ten months to study in Hawaii.

In the LL.M. program, I studied with fourteen foreign students from thirteen different countries. Ten of those students were studying American law while working as lawyers in their home countries. Students from Korea and China were preparing for the New York bar exam, in addition to their studies at the law school.

Besides an introductory course on American law for foreign students, all my classes were with full-time law school students. Although it was difficult to keep pace with those students, the time that I spent at the University of Hawaiʻi was extremely meaningful and is a large part of what my life has become. With a recommendation from the law school, I was able to work part-time at the Family Court in Hawaii. I participated in volunteer activities to support homeless minors as an assignment from the Child Welfare Clinic.

Meeting the Requirements to Sit for the California Bar Exam

Upon returning to my job in Japan, my desire to become a licensed attorney grew stronger.

Each state in America has different eligibility requirements to sit for their bar exam. In most states, an American JD degree is required. In my case, I earned a bachelor of law degree before law schools were established in Japan and also acquired LL.M. degree. My inquiry to the California bar revealed that I could sit for the bar exam by earning 20 credits at qualified law schools in America, including four subjects tested by the California bar exam. Credits acquired in the distance education program of law schools were acceptable to meet the requirement, so I decided to obtain the necessary credits through distance learning while continuing my full-time work. When I took four subjects in a semester, it was difficult to balance my work and studies. However, I was able to earn all required credits and became qualified to take the exam.

Passing the California Bar Exam and becoming a Licensed Attorney

In America, almost all examinees take preparatory courses to prepare for the bar exam. I used a Japanese school affiliated with a preparatory school in America to study. Studying in the limited time was difficult, but I slowly but surely acquired skills and knowledge necessary to pass the exam. Creating a plan and following the plan diligently are the skills I acquired during my studies in the correspondence courses, and this had helped me greatly to study for the bar exam. I found the process quite enjoyable.

There is no limit to the number of times an individual can take an American bar exam. Examinees can take the exam twice per year. I passed the exam on my fourth try. It took me about four years since I started studying at the preparatory school. I was able to continue to study because of all the support and encouragement I received from my family, supervisors, coworkers, and friends.

To register as a licensed attorney, one must also pass a Multistate Professional Responsibility Exam, receive a positive moral character determination, and take an attorney’s oath. I finished the process last December and became a licensed attorney.

Advice for those seeking to become a U.S. attorney

Japanese-licensed attorneys are qualified to take the California bar exam. I encourage Japanese attorneys to take the examination. Non-lawyers may satisfy the requirements by being awarded an LL.M. from an accredited American law school after graduating from a law school in Japan, or by being awarded a JD from a qualified law school in America (distance education courses are acceptable). Also, people who graduated from a Japanese faculty of law by 2010 are qualified for the exam through LL.M. even though they did not graduate from a law school in Japan. Some other states also establish rules that allow foreign students without a JD to sit for their bar exam. For more information on requirements in each state, please refer to the “Comprehensive Guide to Admission Requirements” published by the American Bar Association.

Learning legal systems of America and/or other countries after studying Japanese law, will enhance your knowledge of Japanese law and enable you to approach legal problems from a broader perspective.

Kazumi Takahara
Staff member at the U.S. Navy Region Legal Service Office Japan (California-licensed Attorney)
After graduating from Tsuda School of Business, Kazumi Takahara entered employment at a U.S. Army Base in Japan and worked at the Office of Inspector General. Through the distance learning program, she graduated from the Information Processing Department of Sanno College, and from the Department of English Literature of Nihon University. In 2004, she graduated from the Correspondence Division of the Chuo University Faculty of Law (graduated with honors). From 2009 to 2010, she studied abroad in the LL.M. program at the William S. Richardson School of Law at the University of Hawaiʻi. In February 2017, she passed the California Bar Exam and in December 2018, she was registered as a California-licensed attorney. Currently, she works at the U.S. Navy Region Legal Service Office Japan to provide legal consultation to U.S. military personnel and their families.

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