The Online Encyclopedia and Dictionary






Juris Doctor

J.D. redirects here; for alternate uses, see J.D. (disambiguation)

J.D. is an abbreviation for the Latin Juris Doctor, also called a Doctor of Law or Doctorate of Jurisprudence, and is the law degree typically awarded by an accredited U.S. law school after successfully completing three years of post-graduate law study. Generally, a 4-year undergraduate degree is required to be eligible for entry into a J.D. program.

The course of study for a J.D. usually takes 3 years. At schools approved by the American Bar Association, it is not possible to finish the J.D. in less than 2 years; depending on the academic calendar at a given school, it may not be possible to do so in less than 2½ years. In schools that use the semester system, 2½ years is the minimum because of ABA rules regarding time in residence. The minimum time required at a school that uses the quarter system is roughly the same. It is possible to graduate in 2 years from a school that uses the trimester system.



The J.D. was formerly known as the LL.B. in most U.S. universities, and was changed to confer an equivalent professional status found in other American professions (e.g., medicine, dentistry, etc.). The LL.M., "Master of Laws", is a post J.D. degree (similar post professional doctorate programs at the master's level can also be found in dentistry and veterinary medicine). Doctors of law who are admitted to the practice of law often append the suffix Esq. to the end of their names, but only rarely use the title of "Doctor". (While the Juris Doctor is a professional doctorate, similar to the MedicinŠ Doctor (Doctor of Medicine), convention has discouraged the use of that title among practicing lawyers in the U.S.) The graduate law degree of Doctor of Juridical Science (J.S.D.) confers the academic and social title of "Doctor," but this degree is rarely earned by practicing lawyers in the U.S. Practicing U.S. lawyers who hold doctorates in other fields (i.e., M.D./J.D., Ph.D./J.D., etc.) are more likely to use the title of "Doctor"

Courses required

The first year of a J.D. program is usually devoted to core courses on contracts, property law, torts and civil procedure. Later courses might include things such as:

Admission to the bar

In the United States, the practice of law is regulated on the state level. To practice law in a particular state, one generally must be a member of the bar of that state.

In most states, a J.D. degree from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association is necessary before one may become a member of the bar and practice law. In many states, the bar of the state is separate from the state bar association. In other instances, states have an "integrated bar association," in which a J.D. holder is required to be member of the bar association of the state in which he or she intends to practice. Most states, however, do not require membership in a bar association--it is purely voluntary.

Many states allow some foreign-educated lawyers to take the bar exam. In New York, individuals with at least three years of formal education in the common law (such as British or Australian law) are qualified to take the bar exam. Individuals with two years of common law training or three years of civil law training may take the bar exam after completing a one-year LL.M. program at an American institution.

Only four states, Alabama, California, Massachusetts, and Tennessee, allow individuals to take the bar exam upon graduation from a non-ABA-accredited law school. In various states, an applicant who has not attended law school may take the exam after study under a judge or practicing attorney for an extended period of time.

Admission to a state's bar requires that the applicant either sit for the bar exam in that state and submit to that state's procedures for verifying "character and fitness", or obtain admission administratively through reciprocity provisions providing that in some states, lawyers who have practiced in other states for a set period of time, may be admitted upon application. Some jursidictions are special cases:

  • Washington, DC, North Dakota, Minnesota: These bars allow attorneys who recently passed the bar exam of another state, and who were subsequently admitted to the bar of that state while scoring a certain minimum score on the Multistate Bar Examination (MBE), to 'waive' in to their bars, in effect not having to sit for any bar exam (though they still must attend to other formalities in order to practice in the jursidiction). Attorneys who passed the bars of Louisiana and Washington State cannot "waive in" using this method, since these are the only two jurisdictions in the United States that do not use the MBE.
  • Wisconsin: Graduates of ABA-approved law schools located in the state have a "diploma privilege" of admission to that state's bar without taking any examination. However, graduates of out-of-state law schools, even if they are Wisconsin residents, must take the Wisconsin bar exam to be admitted.

See also

Other law degrees

Last updated: 06-02-2005 04:47:47
Last updated: 06-02-2005 17:39:04