Law degrees are some of the most coveted achievements in the world of education. Many people are attracted to the legal field for reasons such as high levels of pay, wanting to make a difference to their society, the perceived thrill of the profession and the steady career progression and demand for suitably qualified people within this field. This article will describe various types of law degrees that can be studied for in order to explain what they entail. The three basic types of legal degree will be explained before other legal qualifications and specializations are elaborated upon.
Juris Doctor (J.D)
This is a three year degree which represents the first postgraduate qualification for those wishing to enter the legal profession. In order to study for the Juris Doctor, commonly abbreviated to JD, prospective candidates must have already completed a college undergraduate program. This is often in a related field such as pre-law but not always. The first year of the Juris Doctor program gives students a broad foundation of the principles and knowledge broadly underpinning legal practice before specialization occurs through a choice of elective modules in the second and third years.
Master of Laws (LL. M.)
The Master of Laws is typically a one-year, full time program of study that builds upon the Juris Doctor degree. It often involves specialization in a particular area of law that the student wishes to pursue as a career path. This is also a favored route for those wishing to practice law within the United States of America after having done so abroad.
Doctor of Juridical Science (S.J.D.)
This is the highest tier of legal degree that can be obtained within the USA. It is suitable for those who wish to teach law and pursue a career as a professor. It is an intensive, research-based qualification that typically requires three years of full-time study to complete. Students wishing to pursue this qualification are required to have identified the aspects of law they wish to pursue on a research basis and these will be formulated into an academic dissertation.
Other Types of Legal Certifications and Qualifications
This is a professional qualification that enables a person to practice law as a profession. In order to qualify to sit the bar examination candidates are typically required to hold a Juris Doctor degree from a state-approved school of law. The bar examination consists of questions answered over a two or three-day period. After successfully passing the bar examination a candidate will be legally allowed to practice law within a certain jurisdiction.
Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement
This degree is an undergraduate degree that those wishing to enter the legal profession will often pursue before studying the post-graduate Juris Doctor program. It is also a suitable choice of study for those who wish to work in the legal field but not as a practicing attorney. Students are often taught by teachers that have previously held distinguished careers within the criminal justice system.
Pre-Law degrees are various types of undergraduate qualifications that students pursue as a preliminary step before attaining their Juris Doctor degree. Unlike the medical field there is no single pre-law degree but they typically involve a mix of skills and knowledge needed to pursue a career in the legal field. This may consist of skills such as speaking, presenting and studying legal texts as well as knowledge of areas such as sociology and criminal justice.
This is an undergraduate degree that allows a person to work in the legal field, not as a practicing attorney, but as a paralegal. Paralegals are those who have sufficient knowledge of the law to assist attorneys or engage in other matters related to the legal system. Legal assisting degrees are often two or three year programs of full-time study that result in an Associates or Bachelors degree.
Juris Doctor and MBA
This is a combined qualification that results in the candidate obtaining a Juris Doctor and MBA qualification simultaneously. It is offered by prestigious institutions such as Harvard. This is a suitable choice of study for someone wishing to open up their career options beyond the legal field and is great preparation for those wishing to someday start their own legal practice.
Some Popular Specializations For Your Legal Education
International Law is one possible specialism for legal students. It focuses on legislation that governs jurisdictions between nations, such as trade and other large-scale interactions between countries.
Family law is a legal specialism focusing on aspects of the legal system involving families such as divorce and custody legislation.