The Japanese law collection began in the 1940's with gifts to the library of Japanese legal materials, including a substantial donation of books by the Ministry of Justice in Japan. Statistics for library expenditures stretching back to the 1940's show a sustained commitment to building on these early foundations. A substantial Ford Foundation grant to the Law School in 1961 provided the initial impetus for the Asian Law Program, setting aside funds for library development and enabling the appointment in 1962 of the first full-time faculty member in Asian law. The library has continued to add to its Japanese law collection ever since. It keeps long runs of periodicals, and also continues to add to its fine collection of treatises in Japanese on a wide range of subjects related to Japanese law.
There are about 25,680 Japanese volumes in the collection. The collection includes roughly 9,000 monographic titles and 250 periodical titles in Japanese.
The overall goal of the Gallagher Law Library's Collection Development Policy is to "support the curricular and research needs of the University of Washington School of Law." With this in mind, the collection development policy for Japanese law stresses the collection of legal materials of an academic nature on a wide variety of topics concerning law in Japan. Materials on Japanese law are collected in any language, but the primary emphasis is for materials in English and Japanese. Primary materials (Statutes and Cases) and legal periodicals, including law reviews and commercial publications are given a high priority, and academic treatises on the law of Japan are also collected intensely. Subjects of particular interest to faculty members are given special attention.