Wanting to be an ally for women: My dreams for entering the legal profession

2021.09.10

Despite the law being an indispensable part of our daily lives, to many people it no doubt feels like something that is far away and difficult to understand. Nana Kurashima hopes to enter the legal profession with the goal of being an ally for women. Since starting the Legal Professional Course in 2020, she has been working daily to realize that dream, and in this article, she tells us what that has been like.

Nana Kurashima Third-year student, Department of Law, Faculty of Law Nana Kurashima first became interested in the legal profession after hearing about the law in a junior high school civics class. She is currently enrolled in the Department of Law’s Legal Professional Course*, working hard to graduate in her third year and move on to the law school at one of our partner universities. Her extracurricular activities include membership in the Shohokai, a group for those interested in the law. Her favorite place to study is at the University library. In her spare time, she likes to listen to music, watch her favorite artists on YouTube, and visit cafes with her friends.
*Following changes allowing legal certifications to be obtained just six years after entering university, the Legal Professional Course was established in 2020 in the Department of Law, in collaboration with six law schools, those at Waseda University, Chuo University, Keio University, Meiji University, Chiba University, and Tokyo Metropolitan University. After graduating from the University’s Faculty of Law in just three years, students can take the bar examination in their second year of studies at a partnering law school (a five-year integrated program of education). If they pass, they can receive certification as a legal professional after a one-year internship.

The law is for protecting people, but its reality can seem unreasonable

My interest in the law started with something my junior high school civics teacher said: “Say, for example, you’re injured in a traffic accident and you lose a finger. The law calls for restitution of damages, but in some cases you’ll actually receive next to nothing. That’s the reality.”

I remember upon first hearing this repeatedly thinking “Why? Why?” The law is supposed to be fair and protect people’s lives, so how can that be true? Losing a finger would be a really big deal, so how can it be that you wouldn’t be compensated? That's just horrible! From this questioning of why things are the way they are, I started to think of the law as a very strange thing, which led to me wanting to learn more about it.

Later, after I’d gone on to high school and I had to decide what I wanted to study in college, I looked into and became interested in many fields, but in the end I settled on law. So that first feeling of “Why?” led me to where I am now. While I hadn’t had any clear picture of what I wanted to do, that random comment by my teacher turned out to be a major turning point in my life.

As an aside, I now have a clearer understanding of what my teacher was talking about: In the case of a tort, if the person losing their finger was also careless (in legal terms, “negligent”), the negligence of each party will offset that of the other, so full compensation cannot be sought. In addition, the system is such that compensation cannot be sought unless the defendant can prove that there was negligence. So now it makes sense to me that just because somebody lost a finger, they won’t necessarily be able to receive full restitution for their damages. I had to wait until I could study law in college, but I finally have an answer for what I didn’t know in junior high school. Now I’m spending my days realizing the fun and necessity of continual learning.

A gap in studying the law: study in the Legal Professional Course

I chose the Department of Law at Meiji Gakuin University because of its Legal Professional Course, particularly because it provided a path leading to my dreams, and because it offered a wide selection of cooperating law schools from which to choose. My current goal is to advance to law school early, after completing my third undergraduate year, so my educational plan is set in detail.

At first, I thought I could get by in my study of law just by memorizing facts, both in my normal studies and at regular exams, but that was a huge misunderstanding. Of course, there are some things that need to be memorized, but in addition to that store of knowledge, to solve legal problems you have to be able to look at reactions within theory and practice and various opinions on the judgments (precedents) made by courts. On top of that, it is necessary to think for yourself which ways of thinking and solutions are best, and to state that in a way that be logically and resultingly accepted by the world.

In particular, the “specialized exercises” course taken by students in the Legal Professional Course has classes that provide a lot of learning for future advancement along the path of the legal profession. In these classes, we engage in practical discussions based on questions that have appeared on past bar examinations, so preparations take a considerable amount of time. There are three course periods per week, so they keep us busy, and this is not the kind of course you can fake your way through. As difficult as it is, though, the course is stimulating and teaches us a lot, so I can feel it bringing me closer to my dreams.

What’s more embarrassing than failure

From spending my days analyzing many precedents and theories and listening to the opinions of those around me, while I used to be swayed by the opinions of others, I am now able to have my own opinions. I started out embarrassed to even express my own opinions, so expressing a wrong opinion would be even worse. Recently, however, I realized that not being able to express my own opinion is what is truly embarrassing. In the legal world there isn’t always just one answer, so it’s very important to have your own opinions and feelings. It is an environment where assertiveness is an absolute requirement, so I’ve been able to change a lot.

A driving force for learning

I’ve been busy every day, but there is one thing that is absolutely vital for realizing my dreams: the support of my friends. It’s really hard to study so much every day, and there are many things I worry about. Particularly in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve had fewer opportunities to see people, which makes it hard to exchange information and I sometimes get stressed out. At times like that, it was always a big help to talk with others having the same hopes as me to cheer each other on, as was having an environment for study that was accepting of people having a variety of opinions.

When I go to college, I can see my friends and by meeting with them be inspired to keep up my hard work. As a change of pace, we sometimes take a break and go on walks together through the green campus to share our worries. Having so many wonderful friends is one reason why I feel so comfortable on campus. While we still need to be careful about COVID-19, recently I’ve been taking as many face-to-face classes as possible, coming to school both for classes and self-study. My professors are enthusiastic and highly available. They’re always willing to answer my questions and discuss my concerns, so it’s a wonderful environment.

Becoming a lawer who’s an ally for women

My dream for the future is to pass the bar exam and enter the legal profession, but regardless of what kind of job I end up in, I want to be an expert who can take advantage of my perspectives as a woman. Especially because the legal world is dominated by men, I feel a strong desire to become a woman who’s an ally for women.

Recently I frequently hear many news stories about the issue of separate last names after marriage, or child abuse stories that focus only on the actions of the mother, ignoring the huge effects of her environment. At times like that I cannot help but feel that women have a weak social position, and that we still need to improve how we care for the weak. When I enter the legal profession, I want to be a legal expert who can be close to women and help solve their problems.