The faculty of Law was founded in 1924 as a department within the Faculty of Law and Humanities and achieved full independent status in 1949.
A distinctive feature of law faculties in Japan is that they were initially established with the aim of educating civil servants and not lawyers. The law faculties of Japan thus contributed to socio-economic development by educating successive generations of public servants as well as providing law graduates for other sectors of society, notably corporations. This approach can be contrasted with Europe or the United States where legal education has been primarily oriented towards legal practice and has cosequently focused on preparing students for the bar examination and a future career as a legal professional.
One consequence of this difference in emphasis has been the inclusion of political scientists within Japanese law faculties, and political science within the corriculum of the undergraduate law program. The ordinance that first established the Faculty of Law in the early 1920’s, for example, included in its selection of classes various political science subjects, such as the history of politics and diplomacy. This tradition of offering a diverse curriculum in undergraduate legal education has been a distinctive feature of legal education in Japanese universities and continues to this day.
In recent years this approach has been supplemented as a result of government led efforts to reform the training of legal professions. Most significantly, in 2004 the government introduced a new system of graduate level schools and a “US-style” system of legal education was adopted in Japan. Kyushu University Law School is one of over seventy such institutions that offer graduate students the opportunity to prepare for the new national bar examination.
Kyushu University has also been at the forefront of the growth of international legal education in Japan. In 1994, an LL.M program focusing on international economic and business law was established in the Graduate School of Law. This was the first program of its kind to be taught entirely in English offered by a Japanese university. A second Master’s course in Comparative Studies of Politics and Administration in Asia (CSPA) was launched in 1999. An LL.D program offering students the oppertunity to complete doctorant research in English was launched in the same year.
The success of these programs led to the Graduate School of Law being selected by the Ministry of Education to host the Young Leader’s Program (YLP) in Law. This Master’s level program contributes to the creation of a network of national leader’s within Asia by providing young legal professionals and government officials with the opportunity to spend one year in Japan studying for a Master’s level law degree.
Finally, in 2009, a new graduate level program was launched. The Bilingual LL.M degree program in Law (or BiP) offers students the unique opportunity to engage in graduate level study of law in a “bilingual” environment at a law faculty in Japan. The program seeks to overcome one of the principal obstacles to graduate legal education in Japan, namely language, by providing students with the possibility of taking classes and writing a thesis in English, as well as Japanese.