The Social Structure of Conflicts over the Provision of Legal Services in Contemporary Japan: How Do Consumers’ Perspectives Differ from and Overlap with Experts’ Perspectives?
Principal Investigator: Professor KASHIMURA Shiro
One of the characteristic features of the Kobe University Graduate School of Law is the sociological and empirical research on legal phenomenon that is carried out robustly at the school. As part of such research, this project attempts to analyze, from a socio-legal perspective, the course followed by conflicts over the provision of legal services in contemporary Japan.
Six socio-legal researchers comprise this research project, two of whom—including myself as principal investigator—are faculty members of the Kobe University Graduate School of Law. Two others are former students who studied the sociology of law at the Kobe Graduate School of Law.
With an increase in the number of legal practitioners in Japan since the 1990s, the nation has seen a sharp rise in the provision of legal services to the public. This inevitably leads to an increase in the occurrence of conflicts between the public, who are the clients, and their lawyers. This is highly interesting as a legal phenomenon as the chances of a legal practitioner—whose mission should be to enable the legal resolution of the conflicts of others—becoming one of the parties to a conflict may be rising. Whether or not this is the actual situation had yet to be sufficiently clarified, and as such it gave rise to the launch of this study.
There are two main aims of this research project. One is to carry out quantitative analyses to shed light on the overall picture of how legal services are being provided. The other is to conduct qualitative analyses for clarifying the causes and courses of a conflict over the provision of legal services.
The following hypothesis has been formulated in carrying out the analyses: There is a gap between the provider of the legal services (i.e. lawyers) and the recipient (i.e. the public) in their expectations toward what the ideal legal services should be like, and an inability to fill that gap causes conflicts to arise. Therefore, in this research project, we also aim to elucidate the social factors that shape what lawyers believe to be the expected level of legal services to be provided, and the level of legal services that the public expect to receive. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop valid theories and methodology for quantitatively and qualitatively understanding the public’s expectations and evaluations of legal services.
In 2012 and 2013, we conducted a couple of large-scale surveys to shed light on the public’s knowledge and conception of lawyers. Now we engage ourselves in analyses of the surveys’ results to clarify the overall picture of the expectations held by the public towards legal services. To our knowledge, this research is unprecedented in any country, so we are confident that we will present some innovative and exciting findings.