Protesting move to limit numbers of lawyers
Student representatives from law schools across the nation pile up boxes containing written pledges to quit school from nearly 3,000 students in a rally in front of the Ministry of Justice in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Monday. They threatened to abandon their studentship unless the ministry scraps its move to put a quota on the number of lawyer licenses to be issued to graduates. / Korea Times photo by Cho Young-ho
By Park Si-soo
About 3,000 law school students have signed written pledges to quit their schools in a collective protest against the government’s move to limit the number of lawyer licenses to be issued to graduates.
They staged a large-scale rally against the move in front of the Ministry of Justice in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi Province, Monday, a day ahead of the government’s deliberation to decide on the exact quota for successful test takers in the 2012 bar exam.
They represent more than 80 percent of a total of 3,827 students registered at 25 law schools nationwide.
Stacking boxes containing the pledges at the government building, the student representatives from law schools at Seoul National University and other colleges demanded the government scrap its plan to put a quota on the number of successful bar exam takers.
Kim Hyung-joo, president of an association for students who attend a law school at Seoul National University, insists lawyer’s licenses be given to as many as possible.
“That’s the rule the government announced at the time of the law school’s debut,” Kim said. “If the government overturns the decision, it will lose public confidence and darken the future of the system.”
The dispute began after it was reported that the ministry was considering capping the ratio of successful bar exam takers at around 50 percent of all graduates. Under the government policy to limit the number of new lawyers, only around 1,200 graduates will be given licenses each year. The government and the association of lawyers believe the market is already saturated here and the number of new lawyers should be checked.
The association for law schools claims the government’s plan goes against the initial purpose of introducing the law school system. It was adopted in 2008, despite an outcry from lawyers, to make it possible for “more people to receive better legal services at cheaper prices” by increasing the number of lawyers in the market.
To meet the purpose, the association insists 80-90 percent of test takers be given the license. Under its suggestion, more than 2,000 new lawyers will be added to the legal services industry each year.
Many lawyers concern that adding more than 2,000 will lead to a “collapse” of the whole industry.
“Many junior lawyers have struggled to land a job since the government increased the number of successful bar exam takers to 1,000. The situation will get worse if the number of new lawyers is not restricted,” said lawyer Lee Jung-hwan at a recent conference.
He also expressed concerns about the entry of unqualified lawyers into the market. “The government should put priority on how to maintain quality services,” Lee said.