Who is Worthy? Non-lawyer participation in Japanese and Singaporean lawyer disciplinary systems

Kay-Wah Chan, Helena Whalen-Bridge

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Historically the profession of lawyers self-regulated their
members’ ethics through codes of conduct and disciplinary
proceedings. This traditional approach to regulating lawyer
performance and behavior has been increasingly subject to scrutiny and criticism. In some countries, consumer advocates and concern for access to justice for clients have combined to produce systems of regulation in which other actors have a more active role in the regulatory process. In particular, non-lawyer participation in lawyer discipline provides a voice for persons who as a group may be most affected by poor lawyering, but if the non-lawyers are lay persons, they may have little understanding of law or legal practice. This article considers and compares non-lawyer participation in disciplinary systems for lawyers in Japan and Singapore, two of the most advanced economies in Asia. Due to historical reasons, Singapore has a common law system and Japan has a civil law system, but lawyers in both countries have played a dominant role in the examination and discipline of professional infractions. Both countries have also incorporated non-lawyer participation into the disciplinary process. Singapore has inserted non-lawyers into the process and Japan has enhanced non-lawyers’ participation. Why has this occurred, and to what effect? Both jurisdictions maintain confidentiality at most or all stages involving non-lawyers, and performance-related data regarding the impact of non-lawyers is not readily available. The article therefore considers the reasons why non-lawyers were included or why their participation was enhanced, the different degrees of involvement, how non-lawyer involvement is conceptualized and managed, and the potential issues that are raised by these approaches.
Original languageEnglish
Article number4
Pages (from-to)325-372
Number of pages48
JournalFordham International Law Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • legal profession
  • legal ethics
  • non-lawyer participation
  • lawyer disciplinary systems


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