Japan's most famous law grad beats odds in 3rd N.Y. bar exam attempt

Japan's Princess Mako and her husband Kei Komuro attend a news conference to announce their marriage registration at Grand Arc Hotel in Tokyo, Japan, October 26, 2021. Nicolas Datiche/Pool via REUTERS
  • The Japanese press has closely tracked the legal career of 2021 Fordham law grad Kei Komuro
  • He married Japan's Princess Mako last year

(Reuters) - The third time was the charm on the New York bar exam for Kei Komuro, a law clerk at law firm Lowenstein Sandler and the husband of Japan’s Princess Mako.

Komuro’s name appeared on the list of those who passed New York’s July bar exam released Oct. 20, after the Japanese press zeroed in on his failure to pass the July 2021 and February 2022 attorney licensing tests.

He beat the odds as a repeat bar taker — just 23% of the more than 1,600 people who took the July exam after failing at least once passed, according to statistics from the New York Board of Law Examiners. The pass rate for those taking the exam for the first time in July was 75%.

Komuro has been an object of fascination and scrutiny in his native Japan for years, partly due to his status as a commoner. Princess Mako, the niece of Emperor Naruhito who is now known as Mako Komuro, is no longer a member of the Imperial Family following the couple’s October 2021 marriage.

Komuro graduated with a Juris Doctor from Fordham University School of Law in May 2021 and has been working as a law clerk in Lowenstein Sandler's New York headquarters for the past year — a designation firms typically bestow on new hires who have not yet passed the bar exam.

His success on the latest bar exam clears the way for him to be elevated to associate at Lowenstein, though the firm did not respond to requests Monday for clarification on his current status. Komuro, who works in the firm’s corporate and technology groups, also did not respond to requests for comment.

With more than 300 attorneys, Lowenstein Sandler is the 140th largest-law firm in the country and ranked 103rd in U.S. law firm revenue with $392 million in 2021, according to the American Lawyer.

Bar exam tutors say that the test is especially difficult for non-native English speakers. The pass rate for foreign-educated lawyers, or LL.M.s, was 44% in July. Komuro began his U.S. legal studies in Fordham’s LL.M. program in 2017 before transferring over to its J.D. program. The first-time bar exam pass rate among Fordham’s 2021 J.D.s was 94%.

July’s bar exam passers are scheduled to be officially admitted into the New York bar on Jan. 11.

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Karen Sloan reports on law firms, law schools, and the business of law. Reach her at karen.sloan@thomsonreuters.com