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A Law degree is the degree conferred on someone who successfully completes studies in law. However many law degrees are insufficient education for a license to practice law by the administrative body of that jurisdiction. For example in England and Wales one needs to complete the Legal Practice Course to become a solicitor or called to the bar to be a barrister.

The first academic degrees were all law degrees, and the first law degrees were doctorates. The origins of the doctorate lie in the ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifta' ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in the Islamic madrasahs from the 9th century. The foundations of the first universities in Europe were the glossators of the 11th century, which were schools of law. The first European university, that of Bolognamarker, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 12th century who were students of the glossator school in that city. It is from this history that it is said that the first academic title of doctor applied to scholars of law. The degree and title were not applied to scholars of other disciplines until the 13th century. And at the University of Bolognamarker from its founding in the 12th century until the end of the 20th century the only degree conferred was the doctorate, usually earned after five years of intensive study after secondary school. The rising of the doctor of philosophy to its present level is a modern novelty. At its origins, a doctorate was simply a qualification for a guild—that of teaching law.

The University of Bolognamarker 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 for certain jurisdictions such as the Admiralty Court) and although the University of Oxfordmarker and University of Cambridgemarker did teach canon law until the English Reformation, its importance was always superior to civil law in those institutions.

Sample List of Degrees

The type of law degree conferred differs according to the jurisdiction. Some examples include:

  • Bachelor of Laws also referred to as a B.A. in Law (B.L.), or an LLB (Hons) in the United Kingdommarker and various current or former Commonwealth countries. It is an undergraduate degree.
  • Laurea in Giurisprudenza or Dottore in Giurisprudenza for graduates before the Bologna Process reforms, or Laurea Specialisticà in Giurisprudenza (not the Laurea Triennale, and which confers the title of "Dottore Magistrale in Giurisprudenza") after the Bologna Process reforms, in Italymarker. It is a masters level degree, however all graduates of Italian universities, even of the undergraduate degree, are authorized to use the title of "dottore" (Italian for doctor).
  • Erstes Juristisches Staatsexamen is the equivalent to the law degree, since the second part (Zweites Juristisches Staatsexamen) is the German equivalent to the Bar exam in the U.S. At some Universities you either become a "Lizentiat des Rechts (Licentiatus iuris)", a Magister iuris or a Diplom-Jurist. It is a masters level degree.
  • Juris Doctor in the United Statesmarker and Japanmarker (also offered at some schools in Canada, Australia, and Hong Kong). It is a professional doctorate.
  • Legum Doctor (known as the LL.D., or in some jurisdictions Doctor of Laws) is in some jurisdictions the highest academic degree in law and is equivalent to a Ph.D., and in others is an honorary degree only.
  • S.J.D. is a research doctorate in law awarded mostly in the United States and Canada.
  • Licenciado en Derecho ("Licenciate in Law") in Spainmarker. It is an undergraduate degree.
  • Licenciatura en Derecho ("Bachelor in Law") in Mexicomarker. It is an undergraduate degree.
  • Lizentiat der Rechtswissenschaften (German) / Licence en droit (French) until 2004 and Master of Law (MLaw) since 2004 (as a result of the Bologna Process) in Switzerlandmarker. It is a masters level degree.
  • Magister iuris (Mag. iur.) ("Master of Law") in Austriamarker. It is a masters level degree.
  • Specialist in law or Jurist in Ukrainemarker and Russiamarker. It is a graduate degree, though not at the masters level.


  1. Makdisi, G. (1989). "Scholasticism and Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West," Journal of the American Oriental Society 109, 2, pp. 175-182.
  2. Herbermann, et al. (1915). Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Encyclopedia Press. Accessed May 26, 2008.
  3. Herbermann (1915).
  4. Reed, A. (1921). "Training for the Public Profession of the Law, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, Bulletin 15." Boston: Merrymount Press.
  5. van Ditzhuyzen, R. (2005). The 'creatio doctoris': Diversity or convergence of ceremonial forms? Unknown publisher. Accessed May 26, 2008.
  6. García y García, A. (1992). "The Faculties of Law," A History of the University in Europe, London: Cambridge University Press. Accessed May 26, 2008.
  7. García y García (1992), 390.
  8. John H. Langbein, “Scholarly and Professional Objectives in Legal Education: American Trends and English Comparisons,” Pressing Problems in the Law, Volume 2: What are Law Schools For?, Oxford University Press, 1996.
  9. See University of Ferrarra. Faculty of Law (in Italian). Accessed January 5, 2008.
  10. Regio Decreto 4 giugno 1938, n.1269, Art. 48. (in Italian). Accessed February 10, 2009.
  11. Free University of Berlin. Bachelor, Diploma and Staatsexamen (in German). Accessed January 5, 2008. See also Staatsexamen
  12. Association of American Universities Data Exchange. Glossary of Terms for Graduate Education. Accessed May 26, 2008; National Science Foundation (2006). " Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients," "InfoBrief, Science Resource Statistics" NSF 06-312, 2006, p. 7. (under "Data notes" mentions that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); San Diego County Bar Association (1969). "Ethics Opinion 1969-5". Accessed May 26, 2008. (under "other references" discusses differences between academic and professional doctorate, and statement that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); University of Utah (2006). University of Utah – The Graduate School – Graduate Handbook. Accessed May 28, 2008. (the J.D. degree is listed under doctorate degrees); German Federal Ministry of Education. "U.S. Higher Education / Evaluation of the Almanac Chronicle of Higher Education" (in German). Accessed May 26, 2008. (report by the German Federal Ministry of Education analysing the Chronicle of Higher Education from the U.S. and stating that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); Encyclopedia Britannica. (2002). "Encyclopedia Britannica", 3:962:1a. (the J.D. is listed among other doctorate degrees).
  13. Universitat Pompeu Fabra. Licenciatura en Derecho (in Spanish). Accessed January 7, 2009.
  14. Universidad Autonoma de Guadalajara, Tabasco. Licenciado en Derecho (in Spanish). Accessed January 7, 2009.
  15. Julia Pogodina and Ruslan Sadovnikov. Legal Education and Legal Careers in Russia. Northwestern University School of Law, Career Center. Accessed January 7, 2009.

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