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Juris Doctor (see etymology and abbreviations below) is a professional doctorate and in some countries a first professional graduate degree in law, obtained, in the United States and other countries, by attending law school. The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century and was created as a modern version of the old European doctor of law degree (such as the Dottore in Giurisprudenza in Italy and the Juris Utriusque Doctor in Germany and Central Europe). Originating from the 19th century Harvard movement for the scientific study of law, it is a law degree that in some common law jurisdictions has a goal of being the primary professional preparation for lawyers. It is a three year program in most jurisdictions.
In the United States, the professional doctorate in law may be conferred in Latin or in English, as Juris Doctor, and at some law schools "Doctor of Law" (JD or J.D.) or Doctor of Jurisprudence (DJur or D.Jur.), respectively. "Juris Doctor" literally means "Teacher of Law", while the Latin for "Doctor of Jurisprudence"—Jurisprudentia Doctor—literally means "Teacher of Legal Knowledge".
Invariably an earned doctorate, the J.D./D.Jur. is equivalent in academic rank to the Doctor of Laws or Legum Doctor (LLD or LL.D.). However, while the LL.D. remains an earned doctorate in Ireland and many Commonwealth countries, it is invariably an honorary degree in the United States.
In Europe the first academic degrees were law degrees, and the law degrees were doctorates. The foundations of the first universities were the glossators of the 11th century, which were schools of law. The first university, that of Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 11th century who were students of the glossator school in that city. The University of Bologna served as the model for other law schools of the medieval age. While it was common for students of law to visit and study at schools in other countries, such was not the case with England because of the English rejection of Roman law (except in certain specialized areas, such as admiralty court) and although the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge did teach canon law until the English Reformation, the importance of common law was always superior to civil law in those institutions.
The nature of the J.D. can be better understood by a review of the context of the history of legal education in England. The teaching of law at Oxford University was for philosophical or scholarly purposes and not meant to prepare one to practise law. Professional training for practising common law in England was undertaken at the Inns of Court, but over time the training functions of the Inns lessened considerably and apprenticeships with individual practitioners arose as the prominent medium of preparation. However, because of the lack of standardisation of study and of objective standards for appraisal of these apprenticeships, the role of universities became subsequently of importance for the education of lawyers in the English speaking world.
In England in 1292 when Edward I first requested that lawyers be trained, students merely sat in the courts and observed, but over time the students would hire professionals to lecture them in their residences, which led to the institution of the Inns of Court system. The original method of education at the Inns of Court was a mix of moot court-like practice and lecture, as well as court proceedings observation. By the seventeenth century, the Inns obtained a status as a kind of university akin to the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, though very specialized in purpose. With the frequent absence of parties to suits during the Crusades, the importance of the lawyer role grew tremendously, and the demand for lawyers grew.
Traditionally Oxford and Cambridge did not see common law as worthy of study, and included coursework in law only in the context of canon and civil law and for the purpose of the study of philosophy or history only. The apprenticeship program for solicitors thus emerged, structured and governed by the same rules as the apprenticeship programs for the trades. The training of solicitors by apprenticeship was formally established by an act of parliament in 1729. William Blackstone became the first lecturer in English common law at the University of Oxford in 1753, but the university did not establish the program for the purpose of professional study, and the lectures were very philosophical and theoretical in nature. Blackstone insisted that the study of law should be university based, where concentration on foundational principles can be had, instead of concentration on detail and procedure had through apprenticeship and the Inns of Court.
The Inns of Court continued but became less effective and admission to the bar still did not require any significant educational activity or examination, therefore in 1846 Parliament examined the education and training of prospective barristers and found the system to be inferior to the legal education provided in Europe and the United States. Therefore, formal schools of law were called for, but not finally established until later in the century, and even then the bar did not consider a university degree in admission decisions.
Initially there was much resistance to lawyers in colonial North America because of the role they had played in hierarchical England, but slowly the colonial governments started using the services of professionals trained in the Inns of Court in London, and by the end of the American Revolution there was a functional bar in each state. Due to an initial distrust of a profession open only to the elite in England, as institutions for training developed in what would become the United States they emerged as quite different from those in England.
Initially in the United States the legal professionals were trained and imported from England. A formal apprenticeship or clerkship program was established first in New York in 1730—at that time a seven-year clerkship was required, and in 1756 a four-year college degree was required in addition to five years of clerking and an examination. Later the requirements were reduced to require only two years of college education. But a system like the Inns did not develop, and a college education was not required in England until the 19th century, so this system was unique.
The clerkship program required much individual study and the mentoring lawyer was expected to carefully select materials for study and guide the clerk in his study of the law and ensure that it was being absorbed. The student was supposed to compile his notes of his reading of the law into a "commonplace book", which he would try to memorize. Although those were the ideals, in reality the clerks were often overworked and rarely were able to study the law individually as expected. They were often employed to tedious tasks, such as making handwritten copies of documents. Finding sufficient legal texts was also a seriously debilitating issue, and there was no standardization in the books assigned to the clerk trainees because they were assigned by their mentor, whose opinion of the law may have differed greatly from his peers. It was said by one famous attorney in the U.S., William Livingston, in 1745 in a New York newspaper that the clerkship program was severely flawed, and that most mentors "have no manner of concern for their clerk's future welfare... [T]is a monstrous absurdity to suppose, that the law is to be learnt by a perpetual copying of precedents." There were some few mentors that were dedicated to the service, and because of their rarity, they became so sought after that the first law schools evolved from the offices of some of these attorneys who took on many clerks and began to spend more time training than practicing law.
In time, the apprenticeship program was not considered sufficient to produce lawyers fully capable of serving their clients' needs. The apprenticeship programs often employed the trainee with menial tasks, and while they were well trained in the day to day operations of a law office, they were generally unprepared practitioners or legal reasoners. The establishment of formal faculties of law in U.S. universities did not occur until the latter part of the 18th century. With the beginning of the American Revolution, the supply of lawyers from Britain ended. The first law degree granted by a U.S. university was a Bachelor of Law in 1793 by the College of William and Mary, which was abbreviated L.B.; Harvard was the first university to use the LL.B. abbreviation in the United States.
The first university law programs in the United States, such as that of the University of Maryland established in 1812, included much theoretical and philosophical study, including works such as the Bible, Cicero, Seneca, Aristotle, Adam Smith, Montesquieu and Grotius. It has been said that the early university law schools of the early 19th century seemed to be preparing students for careers as statesmen rather than as lawyers. At the LL.B. programs in the early 1900s at Stanford University and Yale continued to include "cultural study," which included courses in languages, mathematics and economics.
In the 1850s there were many proprietary schools which originated from a practitioner taking on multiple apprentices and establishing a school and which provided a practical legal education, as opposed to the one offered in the universities which offered an education in the theory, history and philosophy of law. The universities assumed that the acquisition of skills would happen in practice, while the proprietary schools concentrated on the practical skills during education.
In part to compete with the small professional law schools, there began a great change in U.S. university legal education. For a short time beginning in 1826 Yale began to offer a complete "practitioners' course" which lasted two years and included practical courses, such as pleading drafting. U.S. Supreme Court justice Joseph Story started the spirit of change in legal education at Harvard when he advocated a more "scientific study" of the law in the 19th century. At the time he was a lecturer at Harvard. Therefore at Harvard the education was much of a trade school type of approach to legal education, contrary to the more liberal arts education advocated by Blackstone at Oxford and Jefferson at William and Mary. Nonetheless there continued to be debate among educators over whether legal education should be more vocational, as at the private law schools, or through a rigorous scientific method, such as that developed by Story and Langdell. In the words of Dorsey Ellis, "Langdell viewed law as a science and the law library as the laboratory, with the cases providing the basis for learning those 'principles or doctrines' of which law, considered as a science, consists.'" Nonetheless, into the year 1900 most states did not require a university education (although an apprenticeship was often required) and most practitioners had not attended any law school or college.
Therefore, the modern legal education system in the U.S. is a combination of teaching law as a science and a practical skill, implementing elements such as clinical training, which has become an essential part of legal education in the U.S. and in the J.D. program of study. Today as a result of the development of the U.S. legal education system, law graduates receive more practical experience, but are nonetheless unprepared to practice law on their own upon graduation from law school.
The J.D. originated in the United States during a movement to improve training of the professions. The didactic approaches which resulted were revolutionary for university education and have slowly been implemented outside the U.S., but only recently (since about 1997) and in stages. The degrees which resulted from this new approach, such as the M.D. and the J.D., are just as different from their European counterparts as the educational approaches differ.
Professional doctorates were developed in the United States in the 19th century, the first being the Doctor of Medicine in 1807, but the professional law degree took more time. At the time the legal system in the United States was still in development as the educational institutions were developing. The status of the legal profession was at that time still ambiguous, therefore the development of the legal degree took much time. Even when some universities offered training in law, they did not offer a degree. Because in the United States there were no Inns of Court, and the English academic degrees did not provide the necessary professional training, the models from England were inapplicable, and the degree program took some time to develop. At first the degree took the form of a B.L. (such as at the College of William and Mary), but then Harvard, keen on importing legitimacy through the trappings of Oxford and Cambridge, implemented an LL.B. degree. This was somewhat controversial at the time because it was a professional training without any of the cultural or classical studies required of a bachelors degree in England. Thus, even though the name of the English LL.B. degree was implemented at Harvard, the program in the U.S. was nonetheless intended as practical or professional training, and not, as in England, merely a bachelor of arts denoting a specialization in law.
In the mid-19th century there was much concern about the quality of legal education in the United States. Christopher Columbus Langdell, who served as dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895, dedicated his life to reforming legal education in the United States. The historian Robert Stevens wrote that "it was Langdell's goal to turn the legal profession into a university educated one—and not at the undergraduate level, but through a three-year post baccalaureate degree." This graduate level study would allow the intensive legal training that Langdell had developed, known as the case method (a method of studying landmark cases) and the Socratic method (a method of examining students on the reasoning of the court in the cases studied). Therefore, a graduate high level law degree was established, the Juris Doctor, implementing the case and Socratic methods as its didactic approach. According to professor J. H. Beale, a 1882 Harvard Law graduate, one of the main arguments for the change was uniformity. Harvard's four professional schools of Theology, Law, Medicine and Arts and Sciences were all graduate schools, and their degrees were therefore a second degree. Two of them conferred a doctorate and the other two a baccalaureate degree. The change from LL.B. to J.D. was intended to end this discriminatory practice of conferring what is normally a first degree upon persons who have already their primary degree. The J.D. was established as the equivalent of the J.U.D. in Germany to reflect the advanced study required to be an effective lawyer. The University of Chicago Law School was the first to offer it exclusively (i.e., the first to not offer both the J.D. and the LL.B.). While approval was still pending at Harvard, the degree was introduced at many other law schools in the United States. Harvard would finally confer the J.D. in 1969.
Because of tradition, and concerns about less famous universities implementing a J.D. program, there was some reluctance by some institutions, such as Yale Law School, to implement the J.D. as the only law degree. By the 1960s every law school except Yale offered a J.D. as its sole professional law degree. Yale continued to confer the LL.B. as its professional degree in law until 1971. Nonetheless, the LL.B. at Yale retained the didactical changes of the "practitioners courses" of 1826 and was very different from the LL.B. in common law countries other than Canada.
The English legal system is the root of the systems of other common-law countries, such as the United States. Originally common lawyers in England were trained exclusively in the Inns of Court, but even though it took nearly 150 years since common law education began with Blackstone at Oxford for university education to be part of legal training in England and Wales, eventually the LL.B. became the degree usually taken before becoming a lawyer. Nonetheless, in England and Wales the LL.B. is an undergraduate scholarly program and does not provide all of the training required before becoming licensed in that jurisdiction. Both barristers and solicitors must undertake two further periods of training (the Bar Vocational Course and pupillage for barristers and the LPC and a training contract for solicitors).
The bachelor's degree originated at the University of Paris, which system was implemented at Oxford and Cambridge. The "arts" designation of the degree traditionally signifies that the student has undertaken a certain amount of study of the classics. On continental Europe the bachelor's degree was phased out in the 18th or early 19th century but it continued at Oxford and Cambridge. Today Oxford offers the bachelor's degree in law (B.C.L.) as a second entry program, contrary to the practice of all other English universities. Cambridge followed the same practice until relatively recently, renaming its LL.B. degree as LL.M. in 1982.
Because the English legal education is undergraduate and provides a general education (retaining some of the characteristics of the liberal arts degree advocated by Blackstone) a great number of the graduates have no intention of becoming solicitors or barristers. The approach of the English degree can be seen in the required curriculum, in which there is no study of civil procedure, and relatively few courses in advanced law such as business entities, bankruptcy, evidence, family law, etc.[dubious ] There has been a trend in the past twenty years in England to introduce more professionally relevant courses in the curriculum, particularly in "qualifying law degrees," and the law school has taken a more central role in the preparation of lawyers in England, but the degree is still more scholarly or academic than those in North America. This is also the case for other common law jurisdictions such as in Australia, India and Hong Kong.
Legal education in Canada has unique variations from other commonwealth countries. Even though the legal system of Canada is mostly a transplant of the English system (Quebec excepted), the Canadian system is unique in that there are no Inns of Court, the practical training occurs in the office of a barrister and solicitor with law society membership, and, since 1889, a university degree has been a prerequisite to initiating an articling clerkship (which requirement was not implemented until much later in England[when?]). The education in law schools in Canada was similar to that in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, but with a greater concentration on statutory drafting and interpretation, and elements of a liberal education. The bar associations in Canada were influenced by the changes at Harvard, and were sometimes quicker to nationally implement the changes proposed in the United States, such as requiring previous college education before studying law.
Legal education is rooted in the history and structure of the legal system of the jurisdiction where the education is given, therefore law degrees are vastly different from country to country, making comparisons among degrees problematic. This has proven true in the context of the various forms of the J.D. which have been implemented around the world.
Until about 1997 the J.D. was unique to law schools in the U.S. But with the rise in international success of law firms from the United States, and the rise in students from outside the U.S. attending U.S. law schools, attorneys with the J.D. have become increasingly common internationally. Therefore the prestige of the J.D. has also risen, and many universities outside of the U.S. have started to offer the J.D., often for the express purpose of raising the prestige of their law school and graduates. Such institutions usually aim to appropriate the name of the degree only, and sometimes the new J.D. program of study is the same as that of their traditional law degree, which is usually more scholarly in purpose than the professional training intended with the J.D. as created in the U.S. Various characteristics can therefore be seen among J.D. degrees as implemented in universities around the world.
|Jurisdiction||Scholarly Content Required?||Duration in Years||Different curriculum from LL.B. in Jurisdiction?||Sufficient Education for License?|
|United States||Yes       ||3-7||Yes ||Yes|
Until very recently, only law schools in the United States offered the Juris Doctor. Starting about 1997, universities in other countries began introducing the J.D. as a first professional degree in law, with differences appropriate to the legal systems of the countries in which these law schools are situated.
As stated by James Hall and Christopher Langdell, two people who were involved in the creation of the J.D., the J.D. is a professional degree like the M.D., intended to prepare practitioners through a scientific approach of analysing and teaching the law through logic and adversarial analysis (such as the Casebook and Socratic methods). It has existed as described in the United States for over 100 years, and can therefore be termed the standard or traditional J.D. program. The J.D. program requires a bachelors degree for entry. The program of study for the degree has remained substantially unchanged since its creation, and is an intensive study of the substantive law and its professional applications (and therefore requires no thesis, although a lengthy writing project is sometimes required). As a professional training, it provides sufficient training for entry into practice (no apprenticeship is necessary to sit for the bar exam). It requires at least three academic years of full time study. Strictly defined, the United States is the only jurisdiction with this form of a J.D., but the University of Tokyo (in Japan) and the University of Melbourne (in Australia) are attempting to follow this model closely. While the J.D. is considered a doctorate degree, lawyers usually use the suffix of "esquire" as opposed to the prefix "doctor." Although calling a lawyer "doctor" would not be incorrect, it is more commonly employed overseas than in the U.S.
Canadian and Australian universities have law programs that are very similar to the J.D. programs in the United States. These include the University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Victoria, Université de Moncton, University of Calgary, University of Saskatchewan, University of Manitoba, University of Windsor, University of Ottawa, the Osgoode Hall Law School and University of Toronto Law School in Canada, and the University of Melbourne in Australia. Therefore, when the J.D. program was introduced at these institutions, it was a mere renaming of their second-entry LL.B. program and entailed no significant substantive changes to their curricula. The reason given for doing so is because of the international popularity and recognizability of the J.D., and the need to recognize the demanding graduate characteristics of the program. Because these programs are in institutions heavily influenced by those in the UK, the J.D. programs often have some small scholarly element (see chart above, entitled "Comparisons of J.D. Variants"). And because the legal systems are also influenced by that of the UK, an apprenticeship is still required before being qualified to apply for a license to practice (see country sections below, under "Descriptions of the J.D. outside the U.S.").
The Juris Doctor is now offered at a number of Australian Universities including: Australian National University, University of Canberra, Bond University, Monash University, University of Melbourne, University of New South Wales, University of Notre Dame Australia, RMIT University, University of Southern Queensland, University of Sydney, University of Technology, Sydney, University of Western Australia, and Murdoch University. Generally universities that offer the J.D. also offer the LL.B.—the LL.B. is for students without a prior degree while the J.D. is offered as a graduate level degree for those with a prior non-law bachelor's degree. However, at some universities, for example the University of Melbourne, RMIT University and the University of Western Australia, law can now only be studied at the postgraduate level and the J.D. has completely replaced the LL.B.
An Australian Juris Doctor consists of three years of full-time study, or the equivalent. As with graduates of the LL.B, graduates of the J.D. need to complete practical training requirement before they are eligible for admission to practice. An exception is the University of Technology Sydney which offers practical training as part of their J.D. program enabling direct admission upon graduation. At universities offering both the J.D. and the LL.B, the core curriculum is generally the same for both degrees. However, J.D. students may be taught separately and assessed differently. In addition students enrolled in the J.D complete Master's level electives.
The Juris Doctor is a graduate entry first professional degree, however, despite the naming of the degree, in Australia it is not considered to be a doctoral degree. According to the Australian Qualifications Framework, the J.D. is categorised as a level 9, Masters Degree (extended). This is similar to other graduate entry first professional degrees which are now in Australia such as the Doctor of Medicine.
The J.D. degree is the dominant law degree in Canada, replacing the traditional LL.B. degree prominent in Commonwealth countries. As with the second-entry LL.B., in order to be admitted to a Juris Doctor program, applicants must have completed a minimum 3-year Bachelor's study and scored high on the North American Law School Admission Test. As a practical matter, nearly all successful applicants have completed one or more degrees before admission to a Canadian law school. All Canadian Juris Doctor programs consist of three years, and have similar content in their mandatory first year courses. The mandatory first year courses in Canadian law schools outside Quebec include public law (i.e. state law, constitutional law, and administrative law), property law, tort law, contract law, criminal law, and legal research and writing. Beyond first year and other courses required for graduation, course selection is elective with various concentrations such as business law, international law, natural resources law, environmental law, marine law, criminal law, and Aboriginal law. After graduation from an accredited law school, each province's or territory's law society requires completion of a bar examination, and a period of supervised "articling" prior to independent practice.
Use of the "J.D." designation by Canadian law schools is not intended to indicate an emphasis on American law, but rather to distinguish Canadian law degrees from English law degrees, which do not require prior undergraduate study. The Canadian J.D. is a degree in Canadian Law. Accordingly, United States jurisdictions other than New York and Massachusetts, do not recognize Canadian Juris Doctor degrees automatically. This is equivalent to the manner in which United States J.D. graduates are treated in Canadian jurisdictions such as Ontario. To prepare graduates to practise in jurisdictions on both sides of the border, some pairs of law schools, such as the New York University (NYU) Law School and Osgoode Hall Law School, the University of Ottawa Law School and the Michigan State University Law School or American University, and the University of Windsor Law School and the University of Detroit Mercy Law School, have developed joint American-Canadian J.D programs.
The J.D. degree is currently offered at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the City University of Hong Kong, and the University of Hong Kong. The degree is known as the 法律博士 in Chinese, and in Cantonese it is pronounced as Faat Leot Bok Si. The J.D. in Hong Kong is almost identical to the LL.B. and is reserved for graduates of non-law disciplines, but the J.D. is considered to be a graduate-level degree and requires a thesis or dissertation. Like the LL.B. there is much scholarly content in the required coursework. Although the universities offering the degree claim that the J.D. is a two-year program, completing the degree in two years would require study during the summer term. There seems to be much confusion of the role or status of the J.D. in Hong Kong, as the City University website states that their J.D. is not a research doctorate. Neither the LL.B. nor the J.D. provides the education sufficient for a license to practice, as graduates of both are also required to undertake the PCLL course and a solicitor traineeship or a barrister pupillage.
In Japan the J.D. is known as Homu Hakushi (法務博士). The program generally lasts three years. Two year J.D. programs for applicants with legal knowledge (mainly undergrduate level LL.B. holders) are also offered .This curriculum is professionally oriented, but does not provide the education sufficient for a license to practice as an attorney in Japan, as all candidates for a license must have 12 month practical training by the Legal Training and Research Institute after passing bar examination.
In the Philippines, the J.D. exists alongside the more common LL.B. Like the standard LL.B, it requires four years of study, is considered as a graduate degree and requires prior undergraduate study as a prerequisite for admission, and covers the core subjects required for the bar examinations. However, the J.D. requires students to finish the core bar subjects in just 2½ years; take elective courses (such as legal theory, philosophy, and sometimes even theology); undergo an apprenticeship; and write and defend a thesis.
The degree was first conferred in the Philippines by the Ateneo de Manila Law School, which first developed the model program later adopted by most schools now offering the J.D.. After the Ateneo, schools such as the University of Batangas College of Law began offering the J.D., with schools such as the Far Eastern University Institute of Law offering a joint degree program leading to a J.D. and an MBA. In 2008, the University of the Philippines College of Law began conferring the J.D. on its graduates, the school choosing rename its LL.B. program into a J.D. because to accurately reflect the nature of education the university provides as "nomenclature does not accurately reflect the fact that the LL.B. is a professional as well as a post baccalaureate degree." In 2009, the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM) and the Silliman University College of Law also shifted their respective LL.B Programs to Juris Doctor -applying the change to incoming freshmen students for School Year 2009–2010. The newly established De La Salle University College of Law will likewise offer the J.D., although it will offer the program using a trimestral calendar, unlike the model curriculum that uses a semestral calendar.
J.D.'s are not generally awarded in the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.) instead，a J.M.(Juris Magister) is awarded as the counterpart of JD in the United States, the professional degree in law in China. The primary law degree in the P.R.C. is the bachelor of law. In the fall of 2008 the Shenzhen campus of Peking University started the School of Transnational Law, which offers a U.S.-style education and awards both a Chinese masters degree and, by special authorization of the government, a J.D.
At this time the Juris Doctor does not exist in India; no official entity in India authorizes the award of such a degree. A new venture Jindal Global Law School sought to start an academic program with a recognized Juris Doctor degree, however that plan was withdrawn, and the school now only offers the more traditional LL.B. and LL.M. degrees.
No university in Italy awards a Juris Doctor degree, nor are there any plans to implement the degree. However, the law degree in Italy is far more advanced (5 years course) than a standard undergraduate program, and lawyers in Italy often use the title of "doctor" (Italian law authorizes all university graduates, including undergraduates, to use the title of doctor).
As a professional doctorate, the Juris Doctor is a degree that prepares the recipient to enter the profession (as does the M.D. in the medical profession). While the J.D. is the sole degree necessary to become a professor of law or to obtain a license to practice law, it (like the M.D.) is not a "research degree". Research degrees in the study of law include the Master of Laws (LL.M.), which ordinarily requires the J.D. or LL.B. as a prerequisite, and the Doctor of the Science of Law (S.J.D./J.S.D.), which ordinarily requires the LL.M. as a prerequisite. However, the American Bar Association has issued a Council Statement advising that the J.D. be considered as being equivalent to the Ph.D. for educational employment purposes. Accordingly, while most law professors are required to conduct original writing and research in order to be awarded tenure, most only have a J.D. The United States Department of Education and the National Science Foundation do not include the J.D. or other professional doctorates among the degrees that are equivalent to research doctorates.
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