Munich Personal RePEc Archive

The Industrial Organization of the Japanese Bar: Levels and Determinants of Attorney Income

Nakazato, Minoru and Ramseyer, J. Mark and Rasmusen, Eric (2006): The Industrial Organization of the Japanese Bar: Levels and Determinants of Attorney Income.

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Abstract

Using micro-level data on attorney incomes in 2004, we reconstruct the industrial organization of the Japanese legal services industry. These data suggest a somewhat bifurcated bar, with two sources of unusually high income: talent in Tokyo, and scarcity elsewhere. The most talented would-be lawyers (those with the highest opportunity costs) pass the bar-exam equivalent on one of their first tries or abandon the effort. If they pass, they tend to opt for careers in Tokyo that involve complex litigation and business transactions. This work places a premium on their talent, and from it they earn appropriately high incomes. The less talented face lower opportunity costs, and willingly spend many years studying for the exam. If they eventually pass, they disproportionately forego the many amenities available to professional families in Tokyo and opt instead for careers in the under-lawyered provinces. There, they earn scarcity and monopoly rents not available in the far more competitive Tokyo market.

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