The Japan Legal Support Center, which offers legal advice to people with problems related to civil and criminal cases, started operating Monday.

Along with the lay judge system, the Tokyo-based center, nicknamed “Hoterasu,” or Legal Terrace, is one of the keystones in the reform of the judicial system, which aims to give people ready access to legal help.

The five main jobs of the center are: to offer legal information to individuals; to pay for or extend loans to cover attorneys’ fees in civil cases to those who have a monthly income less than a level stipulated by the center; to reserve state-appointed defense lawyers for criminal cases; to resolve the regional shortage of lawyers, and to support the victims of crime.

The center has set up district offices in Tokyo, 45 prefectures, and Hokkaido, which has four. It has also established 17 branches and 10 smaller local offices in areas suffering from a shortage of lawyers.

The Nakano Ward call center’s telephones began ringing in unison at 9 a.m. as operations began: The center acts as the first point of access for people seeking legal help, and accepts inquiries from around the nation.

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