Wednesday, December 07, 2005

JD versus LL.B.

Most Canadian law schools award the degree of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws), while law schools in the U.S. offer the JD (Juris Doctor) degree. Toronto decided some time ago to offer a JD degree rather than an LL.B. They also increased their tuition dramatically, nearly on par with U.S. upper-end law schools. Ottawa has followed suit somewhat by offering a combined four-year LL.B/JD degree in conjunction with either the State University College of Law in East Lansing, Michigan or the American University (Washington College of Law) in Washington D.C. The JD is a U.S. degree, which enables the graduate to practice law in both Canada and the U.S. This seems to be a great idea, allowing for much flexibility for employment, and would be a great advantage to a prospective employer who does transaction work between Canadian and U.S. corporations. However, be aware that you will pay high tuition while attending Michigan or Washington for two years of the four-year program. The University of Detroit Mercy and the University of Windsor Ontario Schools of law were the first to collaborate to create a joint American/Canadian law degree program. Students complete 104 credits in three years and successful graduates receive both their JD and their LL.B. degrees.

Many other law schools have looked at the issue of the difference between the JD and the LL.B. There are many opinions on both sides; however, the predominant view at this time is that there is nothing wrong with the LL.B. in terms of gaining employment, especially within Canada. It is apparent that the combined JD (U.S.A.)/LL.B. would be an advantage if you wanted to work in the U.S. and could not gain exclusive acceptance at a U.S. law school, or if you think you might like to return to Canada one day. There is a long-standing tradition behind the LL.B. designation, and many people are not willing to exchange it for a JD designation easily.

You can find some brief discussion of the matter here. You can find an interesting survey with resulting comments at the Queen's Law Life blawg. There are some very sound arguments made.

A recent post at discusses the switch that Western Ontario recently made. The conversation is lively, and there seems to be a lot of opinions back and forth.

Even before reading the above commentary, I was of the opinion that I would trade in my LL.B. for a JD if the option was offered to me by my alma mater. I am not too impressed with the idea of paying $150.00 for the privilege. I wonder which schools are currently seriously considering making the switch. I also wonder if there are students pressuring their law schools to consider making the switch. It would seem that the trend is moving in this direction, and I, for one, would not want to be left in the cold. Some may think that it is trite, however, I agree with the argument made in one comment at Queen's Law Life blawg that the LL.B. is an English tradition, where law students are admitted straight out of high school. This obviously is not the way in Canada. I think that the rest of the world needs to recognize that the Law degree in Canada is at least equivalent to a Masters degree, if not more. Most people can finish out a Masters degree in two years (post undergraduate). Law school was three years, plus a gruelling year of articling, which is where the real education begins. I think that these things should be recognized, and that a JD designation would help.

If you have any on-point comments, please don't hesitate to post it in the comments section.


Mitch said...

I'm sorry to say, but an LLB is not equivalent to a Masters degree. The fact that most of us obtained bachelors first does not mean that the education that we obtained in pursuance of an LLB was any more academically rigourous. That's what an LLM is for!

Anonymous said...

Actually no. As a holder of both degrees, the initial comment was correct. An LLM is almost doctoral level in any other discipline.

Anonymous said...

A one year LLM is in no way equivalent to a PhD in another field. Law has its own doctoral degree, and that's a SJD. A JD or LLB is an introductory degree, with no previous knowledge of, or education in, law required. In this sense it is very much like a Bachelor's degree and very much unlike most Master's degrees.

Anyway, to get back to the original post, it must be said that the Toronto JD does not confer any additional advantage to the US market, as it is not an ABA-approved program, and is thus viewed the same as an LLB degree from any other Canadian university. The difference is almost entirely in the name, with the only real distinction being that you must have a Bachelor's degree before applying to the JD program. The only difference is that a JD is a graduate degree, meaning that you have to have a Bachelor's degree before matriculating. As almost all LLB students already have a Bachelor's degree, the difference is mainly in name and perceived prestige.

Amrit Pal Singh said...

i agree with mitch that LLB is not equivalent to Master's degree. However its good that JD degree enables one to practise in both Canada as well as USA

Anonymous said...

I have an MBA from Canada and a PhD in Law from UK.I have plans to do LLB from UK as well.Please let me know with this profile would i be able to practice law in US or Canada