Definitions

Bachelor of Laws

Bachelor of Laws

The Bachelor of Laws (abbreviated LL.B., LLB or rarely Ll.B.) is an undergraduate, or bachelor, degree in law offered in most common law countries as the primary law degree and which originated in England. It was established as a liberal arts degree, which requires that the student undertake a certain amount of study of the classics, but has developed into a more specialized professional degree in recent years. Nonetheless, the goals of most LL.B. programs are to provide a scholarly education, and therefore jurisdictions which offer the LL.B. require additional education or training before a graduate is authorized to practice law. In Australia and Canada it is sometimes referred to as a post-graduate degree because in those countries a previous college degree is sometimes required for admission. The "LL." of the abbreviation for the degree is from the genitive plural legum (of lex, legis f., law), thus "LL.B." stands for Legum Baccalaureus in Latin. In the United States it was sometimes erroneously called "Bachelor of Legal Letters" to account for the double "L" (and therefore sometimes abbreviated as "L.L.B.").

The United States is the only common law country which no longer offers the LL.B. at all. Since the late-nineteenth century universities the United States awarded the professional doctorate J.D., which became the required degree for the practice of law in the U.S. in the 1970s. Many law schools in Canada and Australia are in the process of implementing J.D. degrees, although they differ from that in the U.S. (see the J.D. article for more information).

Historically, in Canada, Bachelor of Laws was the name of the first degree in common law, but is also the name of the first degree in Quebec civil law awarded by a number of Quebec universities. All Canadian common-law LL.B. programs are second-entry professional degrees, meaning that the majority of those admitted to an LL.B. programme are already holders of one or more degrees, or, at a minimum, have completed two years of study in a first-entry, undergraduate degree in another discipline.

Bachelor of Laws is also the name of the first degree in Scots law and South African law (both being pluralistic legal systems that are based partly on common law and partly on civil law) awarded by a number of universities in Scotland and South Africa, respectively.

Structure of LL.B. programmes

Historically, law students studied both civil law and common law. Today, this is much less common. However, a few institutions, such as Cardiff University's Department of Canon (Ecclesiastical) Law and McGill University's and the University of Ottawa's combined programme, continue to offer alternatives to the common law.

Common law countries generally

In most common law countries (with the exception of Canada, the U.S.), the Bachelor of Laws programme is generally entered directly after completion of secondary school, but some universities in Britain also offer the programme as an accelerated (shorter duration), second-entry programme for the LL.B. following completion of a previous undergraduate degree.

Australia

The programme of study for the common law LLB can be either a graduate-entry degree programme requiring a previous bachelors degree (the duration of which is usually 3 years) or can be undertaken directly after high-school either by itself (the duration of which is usually 4 years) or with another degree (ie. BComm/LLB or BSc/LLB, the duration of which can vary between 5-7 years depending on the specific combination).

Canada

Canada has a dual system of laws. In the province of Quebec, a system of civil law is used. At the federal level, as well as in every province or territory except Quebec, a system of common law is used. Because of this, there are two Canadian law degrees generally in use.

The programme of study for the common law LL.B. is graduate-entry degree programme. While the degree awarded is at the first-degree level and admission may be granted to applicants with two or three years of undergraduate studies towards a degree, in practice the programme generally requires completion of a previous undergraduate degree before registration in that programme. In fact, almost all admitted law students hold at least a bachelor level degree, and a significant number hold a graduate level degree as well.

The common law programme is three years in length. Upon graduation, one holds a Bachelor of Laws degree, but cannot yet practice law. In order to practice law, the graduate must obtain a license from the Law Society of the province where he/she wishes to practice law, which also requires a traineeship. (See Becoming a Lawyer below.) Those law graduates wishing to become law professors instead of lawyers often obtain a more advanced academic degree, such as the Master of Laws (LL.M.) or the Doctor of Laws#Canada (LL.D, S.J.D or D.C.L).

The civil law programme in Canada is three years in length. The programme of study for the first degree in Quebec civil law (called LL.B., B.C.L. or LL.L.) is a first-entry degree programme. Like other first-entry university programmes in Quebec it requires a CEGEP diploma for entry.

Law schools that offer civil law B.C.L. or LL.L. degrees include McGill University and the University of Ottawa.

Because of Canada's dual system of laws, some law schools offer joint or dual degrees of common law and civil law. McGill University and the University of Ottawa are two law schools which offer such degrees.

The law degree offered by McGill University is a mandatory joint common law LL.B. / Quebec civil law B.C.L. degree. The programme is four years in length. Admission to that programme is a first-entry programme in the case of Quebec students (as the CEGEP diploma is required) while it is a second-entry programme in the case of students from other provinces (since two years of university studies is required - effectively one extra year of studies more than for a CEGEP diploma). The University of Ottawa offers a civil law degree (LL.L.) on its own.

A number of Canadian law schools offer students the opportunity to earn, besides their three-year first degrees in common law, programmes in common law for holders of baccalaureate degrees in Quebec civil law enabling those individuals to earn the LL.B. in common law in two or three semesters, depending on the offering university's program. Similarly, the University of Ottawa offers, besides its three year LL.L. program in Quebec civil law, a one year LL.L. program in Quebec civil law for holders of an LL.B. or J.D. degree in common law from a Canadian law school.

Additionally, some Canadian universities with common law law schools have an arrangement with a Canadian university with a Quebec civil law law school enabling students to obtain the home school's law degree in three years and the exchange school's law degree in the fourth year.

India

Main article Legal Education in India

See also: Autonomous law schools in India, Common Law Admission Test

In India, legal education has been traditionally offered as a three years graduate degree conferring the title of title of LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws) or B.L. (Bachelor of Law). However the legal education system was revised by the Bar Council of India, the governing body of legal education in India in 1984. Pursuant thereto, various autonomous law schools were established which administer five years undergraduate degree programme and confer an integrated honours degree, such as "B.A.,LL.B. (Honours)", "B.B.A, LL.B. (Honours)", "B.Sc., LL.B. (Honours)", etc.

Both the types of degrees (i.e. three years and five years integrated honours) are recognized and are also qualifying degrees for practice of legal profession in India. A holder of either type of degree may approach a Bar Council of any States of India and get upon compliance with the necessary standards, be enrolled on the rolls of the said Bar Council. The process of enrollment confers a license to the holder to practice before any court in India and give legal advice. The entire procedure of enrollment and post-enrollment professional conduct is regulated and supervised by the Bar Council of India.

Bangladesh

Like other Common Law countries, Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree is a condition precedent to practice as an Advocate in the Courts of Law of Bangladesh. Both LL.B. and LL.B. (Hons.) degrees are offered in different Public and Private Universities. Only four Public Universities offer LL.B. (Hons.) degree. These Universities are-the University of Dhaka, the University of Rajshahi, the University of Chittagong, the Islamic University of Kustia. All these Universities also offer one year LL.M. course. Private Universities like Green University of Bangladesh, Eastern University, South East University, University of Asia Pacific, Stamford University, Northan University, World University of Bangladesh also offer LL.B. (Hons.) degree. Besides, the National University of Bangladesh also offers two years LL.B. degree to the graduates of subjects other than Law through some Law Colleges.

Becoming a lawyer

See also: Legal education and Legal education in the United Kingdom

Upon completion of the LL.B. degree (or its equivalent), graduates are generally qualified to apply for membership of the bar or law society. The membership eligibility bestowed may be subject to completion of professional exams. A student may have to gain a further qualification at postgraduate level, for example a traineeship and the Legal Practice Course or Bar Vocational Course in England and Wales or the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws in Hong Kong.

In Australia, LL.B. graduates are required to undertake a one year articled clerkship or the Legal Practice Course (Commonly Practical Legal Training or PLT) before applying for registration as a solicitor. Depending on the State to which a practitioner is admitted membership of the Bar is either restricted to Barristers, or open to both Solicitors and Barristers in the states where both roles are fused. In the states that maintain membership of the bar as a separate entity, entry is attained through the successful completion of an exam and a nine-month period of tutelage (the reading period) under a senior Barrister.

In Canada, the lawyer licensing process usually requires the law graduate to 1.) take further classroom law courses, taught by the law society itself, and pass a set of written examinations, commonly referred to as bar exams, related to the taken courses and 2.) complete articled clerkship commonly known as articling. Although the vast majority of law graduates fulfill the articled clerkship requirement by articling (i.e. working and learning) in a law firm, a government's legal department, a corporation's (in house) legal department, a community legal clinic or some other type of non-profit organization involved in legal work, a small minority of law graduates (with exceptional academic records) satisfy the articled clerkship requirement by undergoing what is commonly called clerkship with a specific courthouse and under the supervision of a judge instead of working in a more "lawyer-type environment" under the supervision of a lawyer called a "principal". In either articling or clerkship, there is the expectation that the law graduate will work in a variety of legal fields and be exposed to the harsh realities of legal practice that are absent from law school's academic atmosphere.

In the province of Ontario, for example, the licensing process for the Law Society of Upper Canada (Ontario's governing law society) consists of three mandatory components: The Skills and Professional Responsibility Program with assignments and assessments, Licensing Examinations (a Barrister Licensing Examination and a Solicitor Licensing Examination), and a 10-month Articling term.

At the conclusion of the licensing process, the law graduate is "called to the bar" whereby he/she signs his/her name in the rolls of solicitors and swears lawyer-related oaths in a formal ceremony where he/she must appear in a complete barrister's gown and bow before judges of the local superior court and benchers of the licensing law society. After the call ceremony, he/she can designate him/herself as a "solicitor and barrister", and can practice law in the province in which he/she is licensed. In the Province of British Columbia, licensed lawyers are automatically permitted to practice the powers of a Notary Public. In Ontario and other provinces, a licensed lawyer requires further licensing from another authority, such as the provincial attorney general, before he/she can work in a Notary Public capacity.

Although not required by the licensing process, many 1st and 2nd year law students work in law firms during the summer off-school season to earn extra money and to guarantee themselves an articling position (with the same law firms) upon their graduation from law school, because there is always fierce competition for articling positions, especially for those in large law firms offering attractive remuneration and prestige, and a law graduate cannot become a licensed lawyer in Canada if he/she has not gone through articled clerkship.

Alternative titles and formats

Irish B.C.L.

Three of the four universities under the National University of Ireland (NUI) umbrella, award the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.). These are UCC, UCD and NUIG. Five (three in the republic) Irish universities (Trinity College Dublin; NUIG; The Queen's University of Belfast; the University of Limerick, and the University of Ulster), one English university (Nottingham Trent University) and one Welsh university (University of Wales) award the LL.B. in Ireland as a basic professional degree in law (the latter two are run via local private colleges). (The LLB in Griffith College Dublin and Griffith College Cork is jointly validated by HETAC and Nottingham Trent University.) NUIG therefore, awards both. It should be noted, though, that Ireland is a common law jurisdiction (in fact there are two common law jurisdictions on the island) and the expression "civil law" is used to differentiate common law from ecclesiastical law or Canon Law in the republic. In the past NUI B.C.L. graduates who went to work in Britain sometimes didn't disabuse people of the casual notion that it was a post-graduate degree, similar to the more famous Oxford B.C.L.

The King's Inns Barrister-at-Law degree BL is a postgraduate degree required to practice as a Barrister in Ireland.

Zimbabwe B.L. and LL.B.

At the University of Zimbabwe, the first degree in common law is the Bachelor of Law (B.L.) which is equivalent to the LL.B. in other common law jurisdictions. It is followed by a one year programme at the university (analogous to post-LL.B. vocational programmes in other common law jurisdictions) at the end of which a second degree, the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.), is awarded.

The LL.B. in Pakistan

In Pakistan, a person going for an LL.B. degree should have a bachelor's degree. Most law students choose to obtain a two year bachelor degree before enrolling for an LL.B. degree in a law college. The LL.B. itself is a three year programme. In Punjab, a five year joint B.A./LL.B. degree is being offered by law colleges.

After obtaining an LL.B. degree, a person wishing to practise has to intimate the concerned Bar Council that he is undergoing a six month training period under the supervision of a High Court lawyer with ten year standing. After he completes the pupillage, he will be asked to take a written test and undergo a viva-voce exam.

Since in Pakistan's higher education, LLB is done after already having a Bachelors degree, LLB is considered an advanced degree, similar to a graduate degree.

Variations on the LL.B.

Some universities in the United Kingdom and New Zealand offer variations of this degree, such as the LL.B. (Europe), which generally take four years to complete and include a wider range of topics as well as some degree of specialisation.

Various universities in the United Kingdom and Australia will allow a degree that combines study with a non-law discipline. For example, some universities in the United Kingdom offer a combined study of law and history leading to a B.A. degree that is accepted by the Law Society and Inns of Court as equivalent to an LL.B.

The University of London External Programme in Laws (LL.B.) has been awarding its law degree via distance learning since 1858. The LL.B. awarded by the University of London External Programme is of the same standard and quality irrespective of the mode or manner of learning.

At various universities in the UK such as Oxford, and Cambridge the principal law degree is a B.A., in either Jurisprudence or Law respectively; the B.C.L. and LL.B. are second-entry postgraduate degrees. The University of Cambridge has recently replaced their LL.B. degree with an LL.M.

Eligibility to practice law in the U.S. with foreign credentials

For the most part, foreign law graduates seeking admission to the bar in the United States will find their LL.B. law degree does not of itself fulfill the core admission requirements of most states, thereby not allowing them to take the bar exam.

The major exception to this is New York, where those foreign graduates who have fulfilled the educational requirements to practice law in another common law country through study at an approved educational institution, similar in both duration and content to the equivalent teaching at an approved U.S. law school, are permitted to sit the bar. Additionally, both New York and Massachusetts permit Canadian LL.B. holders to take the bar. The requirements of each of the states vary, and in some states sufficient years of practice in one's home country may allow for those otherwise excluded to sit for the bar. Interested applicants should check the requirements of each state bar association carefully as requirements vary markedly.

Situation within the European Union

European Union law permits European Union citizens with LL.B. degrees from Ireland or the UK, who practise law in one of these countries for three or more years, to practise also in every other member state. The actual procedure to receive the respective national licence is regulated by the member state and therefore differs from country to country, but every EU member has to apply the relevant EU Directives to its own national law.

Recently many universities in Germany have introduced LL.B. degrees as part of the Bologna process.The LL.B. is a three or four year full-time study law degree. Some students pursue the LL.M. after pursuing the LL.B. The LL.B. in Germany covers all classes which are also required for the First Staatsexamen (State Exam) and requires some additional courses as well as an original Bachelor thesis. A credit point system is used for the LL.B. degree. In order to obtain the LL.B. students have to pass different sorts of exams, write an LL.B. thesis and collect more academic credits than needed for the First State Exam. The LL.B. degrees satisfies the educational requirements to sit for the German State Exam (German Bar Exam) and the practice of law. The LL.B. is a cornerstone to the future of law practice in Germany.

In Malta, the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree, offered by the University of Malta, is an undergraduate degree that of itself is not sufficient for admission into any of the legal professions.

Alternative to a law degree in England/Alternative degree route in Scotland

There are also conversion courses available for non-law graduates, available as an alternative to the full-length LL.B. degree course. One such example of a conversion course in England and Wales is the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law), which takes one year to complete.

In the UK, as well as in other Common Law jurisdictions, the main approach to this, is the Graduate Entry (undergraduate) LL.B. degree, where graduates from another discipline can complete the LL.B. as a second degree, although this may occasionally require taking qualifying law courses within the first degree to meet professional requirements in full. Therefore it is not entirely correct to regard it as an 'accelerated' degree.

This 'double degree' system was, at one time, an alternative route to the former B.L. degree (now obsolete) but students were required to have independent means to complete the second degree. The current Scots LL.B. degree, a direct-entry undergraduate degree, meets all professional requirements when coupled with the Diploma in Legal Practice. The Diploma was introduced circa 1980; prior to this, all professional exams were taken within the degree itself (or as part of an earlier non-law degree), limiting the scope for academic study.

Therefore the pursuit of the double degree nowadays, for school-leavers at least, is mainly to indicate that one can be adept at two disciplines. Unlike Joint Honours, a second degree is undertaken separately, within the prescribed timeframe. The first non-law degree will almost invariably be an arts degree although science or other degrees are not unknown. Rarely, the double degree principle is found in reverse; just as an arts or science degree can provide exemption from the full academic (not professional) requirements of a subsequent law degree, similarly a law degree can provide exemption from the full academic requirements of a subsequent arts or science degree. In this case, it is more likely that the second degree will be taken as a self-funding mature student, possibly on a part-time basis.

References

See also

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