What is a Juris Doctor?

A Juris Doctor is a type of professional law degree awarded to students who successfully complete a law school program of study.

Though a small number of schools offer a Master of Laws degree, also known as an LLM degree, most of the attorneys practicing in the United States today have a JD degree instead.

This is a terminal program, which means that it is the highest degree that you can get as a law student. You may want to look at some of the features of these programs, how the degree compares to an LLM and how you get into law school.

Required Classes

Law school programs typically consist of three years of study. The courses that you take in your first year offer a broad overview of legal topics and prepare you for taking the more advanced courses required during your second and final years. Most law schools require that you take classes like constitutional law, torts, criminal law and contract law. You will also need to take several classes on legal research and writing. Students working on a JD degree will have the chance to take classes relating to the type of law they want to practice later, including classes on international law, entertainment law and intellectual property law.

Getting Into Law School

Before attending law school and working on a Juris Doctor degree, you must get into law school. Most law schools require that you take the LSAT, which is a type of advanced standardized test. A higher score on this exam may result in you getting into more schools and receiving more financial aid from those schools. You may need to write an essay as part of your application as well that describes what type of law you want to practice and some of your future goals.

Practicing Law

The courses that you take as you earn a JD degree prepare you for taking the exam offered by the American Bar Association. Also known as the ABA, this is the organization responsible for administering the bar exam each year. This is a two-day test that you need to take and pass before practicing law in your state. You’ll take a multiple choice test of 200-questions during your first day and a more general test during the second day. If you do not pass the test on your first attempt, you will have the chance to take it again.

JD Compared to LLM

An LLM degree is a type of degree awarded to international students and some JD students. According to the Law School Admission Council, most students finish these programs in just one year but those who do may not meet the requirements necessary for taking the bar. The LSAC points out that only those who earn a JD from an accredited college or university qualify for sitting for the bar. According to the LSAC, international students enrolling in an LLM program in the United States or Canada will also need to take and pass an English proficiency test.

A JD is the highest type of law degree that a student can earn. Though it takes three years to finish one of these programs, students can then sit for the bar and become a practicing lawyer. Juris Doctor programs often require that students take specific classes on topics like criminal and constitutional law.