Juris Doctor (abbreviated J.D. or JD, from the Latin, Teacher of Law) is a first professional graduate degree and professional doctorate in law. The degree was first awarded by Harvard University in the United States in the late 19th century as a degree similar to the old European doctor of law degree (such as the dottore di giurisprudenza in Italy and the Juris Utriusque Doctor ) and the legal studies counterpart to the M.D. degree in the United States. Originating from the 19th century Harvard movement for the _scientific_study_of_the_law, it is the first and only law degree that has a goal of being the primary professional preparation for lawyers (and therefore a terminal professional degree). It is the only professional doctorate in law and is a three year program in most jurisdictions (other doctorates are four years or longer). Like other professional doctorates in the United States (M.D., D.O., D.D.S., D.P.T., D.P.M., D.C., etc.), a research dissertation or thesis is not traditionally a part of the J.D. This degree primarily exists in the United States, but recently has appeared in universities in other countries for the first time, although it has a unique form in each country.
The unique nature of the J.D. can be better understood by a review of the context of the history of legal education in England. Teachings of law at universities was scholarly rather than to prepare one to practice law. Professional training for practising law in England be undertaken at the Inns of Court, but over time the training functions of the Inns lessened considerably and apprenticeships with individual practitioners arose as the prominent medium of preparation. However, because of the lack of standardization of study and of objective standards for appraisal of these apprenticeships, the role of universities became subsequently of importance for the education of lawyers in the English speaking world.
The first academic degrees were all law degrees, and the first law degrees were doctorates. The origins of the doctorate lie in the ijazat attadris wa 'l-ifttd ("license to teach and issue legal opinions") in the medieval Islamic madrasahs from the 9th century. The foundations of the first universities in Europe were the glossators of the 11th century, which were schools of law. The first European university, that of Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 12th century who were students of the glossator school in that city. It is from this history that it is said that the first academic title of doctor applied to scholars of law. The degree and title were not applied to scholars of other disciplines until the 13th century. And at the University of Bologna from its founding in the 12th century until the end of the 20th century the only degree conferred was the doctorate, usually earned after five years of intensive study after secondary school. The rising of the doctor of philosophy to its present level is a modern novelty. At its origins, a doctorate was simply a qualification for a guild—that of teaching law.
The University of Bologna served as the model for other law schools of the medieval age. While it was common for students of law to visit and study at schools in other countries, such was not the case with England because of the English rejection of Roman law and although the University of Oxford did teach canon law, its importance was always superior to civil law in that institution.
In England in 1292 when Edward I first requested that lawyers be trained, students merely sat in the courts and observed, but over time the students would hire professionals to lecture them in their residences, which led to the institution of the Inns of Court system. The original method of education at the Inns of Court was a mix of moot court-like practice and lecture, as well as court proceedings observation. By the seventeenth century, the Inns obtained a status as a kind of university akin to the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, though very specialized in purpose. With the frequent absence of parties to suits during the Crusades, the importance of the lawyer role grew tremendously, and the demand for lawyers grew.
Traditionally Oxford and Cambridge did not see common law as worthy of study, and included coursework in law only in the context of canon and civil law and for the purpose of the study of philosophy or history only. The apprenticeship program for solicitors thus emerged, structured and governed by the same rules as the apprenticeship programs for the trades The training of solicitors by apprenticeship was formally established by an act of parliament in 1729. William Blackstone became the first lecturer of law at the University of Oxford in 1753, but the university did not establish the program for the purpose of professional study, and the lectures were very philosophical and theoretical in nature. Blackstone insisted that the study of law should be university based, where concentration on foundational principles can be had, instead of concentration on detail and procedure had through apprenticeship and the Inns of Court.
The Inns of Court continued but became less effective and admission to the bar still did not require any significant educational activity or examination, therefore in 1846 the Parliament examined the education and training of prospective barristers and found the system to be inferior to the legal education provided in Europe and the United States. Therefore, formal schools of law were called for, but not finally established until later in the century, and even then the bar did not consider a university degree in admission decisions.
Initially there was much resistance to lawyers in colonial North America because of the role they played in hierarchical England, but slowly the colonial governments started using the services of professionals trained in the Inns of Court in London, and by the end of the American Revolution there was a functional bar in each state. As institutions for training developed in the colonies, because of the distrust of a profession only open to the elite in England, the institutions which developed in what would become the United States would be much different than those in England.
Initially in the United States the legal professionals were trained and imported from England. A formal apprenticeship or clerkship program was established first in New York in 1730—at that time a seven year clerkship was required, and in 1756 a four year college degree was required in addition to five years of clerking and an examination. Later the requirements were reduced to require only two years of college education. But a system like the Inns did not develop, and a college education was not required in England until the 19th century, so this system was unique.
The clerkship program required much individual study and the mentoring lawyer was expected to carefully select materials for study and guide the clerk in his study of the law and ensure that it was being absorbed. The student was supposed to compile his notes of his reading of the law into a "commonplace book", which he would try to memorize. Although those were the ideals, in reality the clerks were often overworked and rarely were able to study the law individually as expected. They were often employed to tedious tasks, such as making handwritten copies of documents. Finding sufficient legal texts was also a seriously debilitating issue, and there was no standardization in the books assigned to the clerk trainees because they were assigned by their mentor, whose opinion of the law may have differed greatly from his peers. It was said by one famous attorney in the U.S., William Livingston, in 1745 in a New York newspaper that the clerkship program was severely flawed, and that most mentors "have no manner of concern for their clerk's future welfare… [T]is a monstrous absurdity to suppose, that the law is to be learnt by a perpetual copying of precedents." There were some few mentors that were dedicated to the service, and because of their rarity, they became so sought after that the first law schools evolved from the offices of some of these attorneys who took on many clerks and began to spend more time training than practicing law.
It was seen over the years that the apprenticeship program was not capable of producing lawyers capable of serving their clients. The apprenticeship programs often employed the trainee with menial tasks, and while they were well trained in the day to day operations of a law office, they were generally unprepared practitioners or legal reasoners. The establishment of formal faculties of law in U.S. universities did not occur until the latter part of the 18th century. The first law degree granted by a U.S. university was a Bachelor of Law in 1793 by the College of William and Mary, which was abbreviated L.B.; Harvard was the first university to use the LL.B. abbreviation in the United States.
The first university law programs in the United States, such as that of the University of Maryland established in 1812, included much theoretical and philosophical study, including works such as the Bible, Cicero, Seneca, Aristotle, Adam Smith, Montesqieu and Grotius. It has been said that the early university law schools of the early 19th century seemed to be preparing students for careers as statesmen rather than as lawyers. At the LL.B. programs in the early 1900s at Stanford University and Yale continued to include "cultural study," which included courses in languages, mathematics and economics.
In the 1850s there were many proprietary schools which originated from a practitioner taking on multiple apprentices and establishing a school and which provided a practical legal education, as opposed to the one offered in the universities which offered an education in the theory, history and philosophy of law. The universities assumed that the acquisition of skills would happen in practice, while the proprietary schools concentrated on the practical skills during education.
In part to compete with the small professional law schools, there began a great change in U.S. university legal education. For a short time beginning in 1826 Yale began to offer a complete "practitioners' course" which lasted two years and included practical courses, such as pleading drafting. U.S. Supreme Court justice Joseph Story started the spirit of change in legal education at Harvard when, as a lecturer there in the early 19th century, he advocated a more "scientific study" of the law. Therefore at Harvard the education was much of a trade school type of approach to legal education, contrary to the more liberal arts education advocated by Blackstone at Oxford and Jefferson at William and Mary. Nonetheless there continued to be debate among educators over whether legal education should be more vocational, as at the private law schools, or through a rigorous scientific method, such as that developed by Story and Langdell. In the words of Dorsey Ellis, "Langdell viewed law as a science and the law library as the laboratory, with the cases providing the basis for learning those 'principles or doctrines' of which 'law, considered as a science, consists.' Nonetheless, into the year 1900 most states did not require a university education (although an apprenticeship was often required) and most practitioners had not attended any law school or college.
Therefore, the modern legal education system in the U.S. is a combination of teaching law as a science and a practical skill, implementing elements such as clinical training, which has become an essential part of legal education in the U.S. and in the J.D. program of study. Whereas in the 18th and 19th century, few U.S. lawyers trained in an apprenticeship "achieved a level of competence necessary to adequately serve their clients," today as a result of the development of the U.S. legal education system, "law graduates perceive themselves to be prepared upon graduation" for the practice of law.
Professional doctorates were developed in the United States in the 19th century, the first being the M.D. in 1807, but the professional law degree took more time. At the time the legal system in the United States was still in development as the educational institutions were developing. The status of the legal profession was at that time still ambiguous (unlike that of the medical practitioners, whose place in society has always been well established), therefore the development of the legal degree took much time. Even when some universities offered training in law, they did not offer a degree. Because in the United States there were no Inns of Court, and the English academic degrees did not provide the necessary professional training, the models from England were inapplicable, and the degree program took some time to develop. At first the degree took the form of a B.L. (such as at the College of William and Mary), but then Harvard, keen on importing legitimacy through the trappings of Oxford and Cambridge, implemented a LL.B. degree. This was somewhat controversial at the time because it was a professional training without any of the cultural or classical studies required of a bachelors degree in England. Thus, even though the name of the English LL.B. degree was implemented at Harvard, the program in the U.S. was nonetheless intended as practical or professional training, and not, as in England, merely a bachelor of arts denoting a specialization in law.
In the mid-19th century there was much concern about the quality of legal education in the United States. Christopher Columbus Langdell, who served as dean of Harvard Law School from 1870 to 1895, dedicated his life to reforming legal education in the United States. The historian Robert Stevens wrote that "it was Langdell's goal to turn the legal profession into a university educated one — and not at the undergraduate level, but through a three-year post baccalaureate degree. This graduate level study would allow the intensive legal training that Langdell had developed, known as the case method (a method of studying landmark cases) and the socratic method (a method of examining students on the reasoning of the court in the cases studied). Therefore, a graduate high level law degree was established, the Juris Doctor, implementing the case and socratic methods as its didactic approach. The J.D. was established as the equivalent of the J.U.D. in Germany to reflect the advanced study required to be an effective lawyer. It was not a conversion of the LL.B. degree, but a graduate degree to be distinguished from undergraduate programs. It was established by the faculty of law at Harvard first, and while it was pending the approval of the administration, the degree was introduced at all the best law schools in the nation, such as Stanford, Pennsylvania, and Berkeley. Subsequently, other law schools tried to also implement the degree in order to boost the prestige of their universities, but the programs did not meet the rigorous standards of those at the better law schools. The University of Chicago Law School was the first institution to offer the J.D. exclusively.
Because of tradition, and concerns about less famous universities implementing a J.D. program, there was some reluctance by some institutions, such as Yale Law School, to implement the J.D. as the only law degree. By the 1960s every law school except Yale offered a J.D. as its sole professional law degree. Yale continued to confer the LL.B. as a second-entry professional degree in law until 1971. Nonetheless, the LL.B. at Yale retained the didactical changes of the "practitioners courses" of 1826 and was very different from the LL.B. in other common law countries.
The bachelor's degree originated at the University of Paris, which system was implemented at Oxford and Cambridge. The "arts" designation of the degree traditionally signifies that the student has undertaken a certain amount of study of the classics. On continental Europe the bachelor's degree was phased out in the 18th or early 19th century but it continued at Oxford and Cambridge. Today Oxford offers the bachelor's degree in law (B.C.L.) as a second entry program, contrary to the practice of all other English universities. Cambridge followed the same practice until relatively recently, renaming its LL.B. degree as LL.M. in 1982.
Because the English legal education is undergraduate and a liberal arts degree a great number of the graduates have no intention of becoming solicitors or barristers. The approach of the English degree can be seen in the required curriculum, in which there is no study of civil procedure, and relatively few courses in advanced law such as business entities, bankruptcy, evidence, family law, etc. There has been a trend in the past twenty years in England to introduce more professionally relevant courses in the curriculum, particularly in "qualifying law degrees," and the law school has taken a more central role in the preparation of lawyers in England, but the degree is still more scholarly or academic than those in North America. This is also the case for other commonwealth jurisdictions such as in Australia, India and Hong Kong.
Legal education in Canada is exceptional among commonwealth countries. Even though the legal system of Canada is an implant of that in England, the Canadian system is unique in that there was no Inns of Court, the practical training occurred in the office of a licensed attorney, and that since 1889 it required a university degree as a prerequisite to initiating a clerkship (which requirement was not implemented until much later in England). The education in law schools in Canada was similar to that in the United States at the turn of the 20th century, but with a greater concentration on statutory drafting and interpretation, and elements of a liberal education. The bar associations in Canada were influenced by the changes at Harvard, and were sometimes quicker to nationally implement the changes proposed in the United States, such as requiring previous college education before studying law.
Legal education is rooted in the history and structure of the legal system of the jurisdiction where the education is given, therefore law degrees are vastly different from country to country, making comparisons among degrees problematic. This has proven true in the context of the various forms of the J.D. which have been implemented around the world.
For many years the J.D. was unique to law schools in the U.S. But with the rise in international success of law firms from the United States, and the rise in students from outside the U.S. attending U.S. law schools, attorneys with the J.D. have become increasingly common internationally. Therefore the prestige of the J.D. has also risen, and many universities outside of the U.S. have started to offer the J.D., often for the express purpose of raising the prestige of their law school and graduates. Such institutions usually aim to appropriate the name of the degree only, and sometimes the new J.D. program of study is the same as that of their traditional law degree, which is usually more scholarly in purpose than the professional training intended with the J.D. as created in the U.S. Various characteristics can therefore be seen among J.D. degrees as implemented in universities around the world.
|Jurisdiction||Scholarly Content Required?||Duration in Years||Different curriculum from LL.B. in Jurisdiction?||Sufficient Education for License?|
|Standard J.D. Program||No||3||Yes||Yes|
|Australia||only 1 legal theory course||3||No (1 less year only)||No|
|Canada||Yes (including research paper)||3||No||No|
|Hong Kong||Yes (including research paper or dissertation)||2 - 3||No (additional research or dissertation only)||No|
|Philippines||Yes (including major thesis)||4||No (additional thesis and apprenticeship only)||Yes|
Only until very recently (about 1997) the only institutions to offer the J.D. were in the United States. Universities in other jurisdictions have slowly been introducing the degrees that are called a J.D., but have important differences from the J.D. as originally intended, and that fit the needs of the various legal systems in which they are found.
As stated by two individuals who played a large part in creating the degree, James Hall and Christopher Langdell, the J.D. is a doctorate like the J.U.D. or D.C.L., but is a professional program like the M.D. preparing practitioners through a scientific method of analysing and teaching the law through logic and adversarial analysis. It has existed as thus described in the United States for over 100 years, and can therefore be termed the standard or traditional J.D. program. Because it is a professional doctorate it requires a bachelors degree for entry. The program of study for the degree has remained substantially unchanged since its creation, and is an intensive study of the substantive law and its professional applications (and therefore requires no thesis, although a lengthy writing project is sometimes required). As a professional training, it provides sufficient training for entry into practice (no apprenticeship is necessary to sit for the bar exam). It requires at least three academic years of full time study. Strictly defined, the United States is the only jurisdiction with this form of a J.D., but the University of Tokyo (in Japan) and the University of Melbourne (in Australia) are attempting to follow this model closely.
There has been an increase in the popularity of entering the professions, and to meet this demand some schools offer a program for students who have already graduated from another department to return to school to earn a law degree. Many of the participants in this kind of program already have some work experience. The best example of this form are the J.D. programs in Hong Kong and some in Australia. Those programs are more or less identical to the LL.B. programs, except they are usually more intensive and thus take less time to complete. Because such programs are essentially a LL.B. program, this kind of program is academic in nature, shorter than other J.D. programs, and more training is required before a graduate is qualified to apply to the bar for admission (such as the PLT and an apprenticeship).
Some universities have law programs that are very similar to the J.D. programs in the United States, such as the University of Melbourne (in Australia) and the University of Toronto (in Canada). Therefore, when the J.D. program was introduced at these institutions, it was a mere re-naming of their second-entry LL.B. program and entailed no significant substantive changes to their curricula. The reason given for so doing is because of the international popularity and recognizability of the J.D., and the need to recognize the demanding graduate characteristics of the program. Because these programs are in institutions heavily influenced by those in the U.K., the J.D. programs often have some small scholarly element. And because the legal systems are also influenced by that of the U.K., an apprenticeship is still required before being qualified to apply for a license to practice. Yale University is sometimes cited as an example of this kind of program, but actually Yale had participated in the academic reforms that led to the creation of the degree, and even though Yale retained the LL.B. title for reasons of tradition until 1971, when the degree was implemented, the program was identical to the other J.D. programs in the United States, which were true professional doctorate programs.
As in all other commonwealth countries, the standard law degree in Australia is the LL.B. Although the J.D. is "growing in popularity, only 10 of the 30 law schools offer the J.D., and the J.D. has replaced the LL.B. in only one of them. The main purpose of the J.D. in Australia is to give the opportunity for non-law graduates to study law, therefore it is supplementary to, and not a substitute for, the LL.B. The LL.B programs are usually combined with an arts degree (BA/LL.B) and can be completed in 5 years, or are offered as second entry programs. The LL.B. curriculum is less scholarly than that in the U.K., usually only requiring one jurisprudice or theory course. Many universities such as Australian National University, Bond University, University of Queensland, University of Southern Queensland, University of New England, University of Melbourne, Monash University, Murdoch University , University of Technology Sydney, and the University of Notre Dame Australia now offer the J.D., usually for graduates from non-law programs who wish to study law. But at the University of Melbourne the J.D. degree, like at the University of Toronto, has completely replaced the LL.B. as the degree of law. A first degree is required for admittance to all J.D. programs in Australia. The program last three years and the courses, like the LL.B. program, are professionally oriented. But for both the J.D. and LL.B. programs, a graduate cannot be licensed to practice until after completing an articled clerkship program or practical legal training course. Curiously, Bond University has a J.D. program identical to the LL.B. but for graduates of other disciplies, and that institution states that their degree is not a doctorate. Even more unusual is the "LL.M. (J.D.)" at Monash University, which is the same as the Bond University program, and that institution also states that their degree is not a professional doctorate.
The typical degree to practice law in Canada is the LL.B., which requires previous college coursework and is very similar to the first law degree in the United States, except there is some scholarly content in the coursework (such as an academic research paper required in most schools). The programs consist of three years, and have similar content in their mandatory first year courses. Beyond first year and the minimum requirements for graduation, course selection is elective with various concentrations such as business law, international law, natural resources law, criminal law, Aboriginal law, etc. Some universities such as the University of Toronto and Queen's University, have changed the name of their degree to that of a J.D., and the law faculties at Osgoode Hall Law School, University of British Columbia, and the University of Western Ontario have recently voted to do the same. Despite changes in designation, schools opting for the J.D. have not altered their curricula. Neither the J.D. or LL.B alone are sufficient to qualify for a Canadian license, as each Province's law society requires an apprenticeship and successful completion of provincial skills and responsibilities training course, such as the British Columbia Law Society's Professional Legal Training Course, the Law Society of Upper Canada's Skills and Responsibilities Training Program. and the École du Barreau du Québec. Although the main reason for implementing the J.D. in Canada was to distinguish the degree from the European counterpart that requires no previous post secondary, the American Bar Association has yet to recognize the degree as awarded by any Canadian institution. In the eyes of the Canadian educational system the J.D. awarded by Canadian universities has retained the characteristics of the LL.B. and is considered a second entry program, but not a graduate program. Nevertheless, disagreement persists regarding the status of the degrees, such as at the University of Toronto, where the J.D. degree designation has been marketed by the Faculty of Law as superior to the LL.B. degree designation. Some universities have developed joint Canadian LL.B and American J.D programs, such as York University and New York University, the University of Windsor and the University of Detroit Mercy, and the University of Ottawa Michigan State University program.
Officially there is no such thing as a J.D. in the People's Republic of China (P.R.C.), as the government does not authorize professional doctorates. In the People's Republic of China, the primary law degree is a bachelor of law. Starting in the fall of 2008 the Shenzhen campus of Peking University will start the School of Transnational Law, which will introduce a U.S.-styled graduate education. Even though this program has not yet received full accreditation by the P.R.C. government, the program is seeking accreditation by the American Bar Association, the first institution outside of the U.S. to seek such accreditation. The degree offered by the program is termed a J.D. in English, but in Chinese, the degree is termed to be an international law masters degree (国际法律硕士) because the P.R.C. government does not authorize professional doctorates of any kind, therefore the use of the term "J.D." for the degree is questionable. The curriculum of the program is nearly identical to that of a J.D. program at a U.S. university and will require three years of study.
The primary law degree in Hong Kong is the LL.B., which is more or less identical to the LL.B. in England. The J.D. degree is not offered at Hong Kong University, but it is offered at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the City University of Hong Kong, where it is known as the 法律博士, which in Cantonese Chinese is pronounced Faat Leot Bok Si. The J.D. in Hong Kong is almost identical to the LL.B. and is reserved for graduates of non-law disciplines, but the J.D. is considered to be a graduate-level degree and requires a thesis or dissertation. Like the LL.B. there is much scholarly content in the required coursework. Although the two universities offering the degree superficially claim that the J.D. is a two-year program, further study of their website reveals that completing the degree in two years would require study with no summer break. There seems to be much confusion of the role or status of the J.D. in Hong Kong, as the City University website states that their J.D. is not a doctorate. Neither the LL.B. nor the J.D. provides the education sufficient for a license to practice, as graduates of both are also required to endure the PCLL and a traineeship or pupillage.
In Japan the J.D. is known as Homu Hakushi (法務博士) and has replaced the bachelor of law as the first entry law degree. The program generally lasts three years. This curriculum is professionally oriented, but does not provide the education sufficient for a license, as all candidates for a license must attend the Legal Training and Research Institute.
In the Philippines, the J.D. degree is similar to the J.D. in Canada, but is unique in that it is also more scholarly than the Ll.B. in the Philippines. The J.D. exists alongside the more common Ll.B., and like it, requires four years of study. Like the standard Ll.B. program in the Philippines, the J.D. is considered a graduate degree, requiring a college degree as a prerequisite to admission. The J.D. also covers core subjects required for the bar examinations, and fulfills the requisite education to sit for the bar examination. However, unlike the Ll.B., the J.D. requires students to finish the core bar subjects in just 2 1/2 years, take elective subjects in advanced scholarly topics (such as legal theory, philosophy, and sometimes even theology), as well as undergo an apprenticeship and prepare a thesis. The degree was first conferred in the Philippines by the Ateneo de Manila Law School, which developed the program model adopted by most schools conferring the J.D. in the Philippines, such as the University of Batangas College of Law and the Far Eastern University Institute of Law. In 2008, the University of the Philippines College of Law began conferring the J.D. on its graduates, the school choosing to simply rename its Ll.B. program into a J.D. because the "nomenclature does not accurately reflect the fact that the [Ll.B.] is a professional as well as a post baccalaureate degree.
Although persons licensed as attorneys in the United States often use a variety of titles and suffixes, the titles "Attorney," "attorney-at-law," "Esquire" ("Esq.") and "lawyer" must be distinguished from "J.D.". Generally, the designation "J.D." indicates a person who has received the degree from a law school, whereas "Attorney" and the like indicate the person is licensed to practice law. Some states restrict the use of the "J.D." suffix to those licensed to practice law. Arizona, for instance, forbids the use of "J.D." as a title if it is "reasonably likely to induce others to believe the person or entity is authorized to engage in the practice of law in Arizona". (In all states, a person who is not admitted to practice law but who represents or implies that he or she is an attorney may be subject to penalties for the unauthorized practice of law or impersonating a lawyer, both of which are criminal offenses in many jurisdictions).
There has been much debate in the United States as to whether J.D. recipients may use the title of Doctor and refer to themselves as "Doctor". A recent law article on the topic appeared in the November 2006 issue of the American Bar Association Journal, entitled "Lawyers Are Doctors, Too". ABA Informal Opinion 1152 (1970) allows those who hold a Juris Doctor (J.D.) to use the title doctor. (See also ABA Model Code of Professional Responsibility, Disciplinary Rule 2-102(E).) The North Carolina Bar Association permits the use of the title in post-secondary academic contexts in that state. Although the J.D. is not considered by some academicians as a terminal degree, the highest degree of some university presidents (which position requires a Ph.D. or similar degree) has been that of a J.D. (e.g. 1971-1991 Harvard president Derek Curtis Bok, and the present president of Columbia University Lee Bollinger).
Because of its unique characteristics, the Juris Doctor is a degree over which there has been much misunderstanding.
The existence of the S.J.D. has sometimes caused confusion. For example, it is claimed that since a doctorate is the highest degree in a university, and the J.D. is not a terminal degree, the J.D. is therefore not a doctorate. Some of the reasons cited for stating that the J.D. is not a terminal degree are that the LL.M. and S.J.D. both require the J.D. for admission, and that the J.D. is a first professional degree in law, just like the LL.B. It has also been stated that since the S.J.D. is the doctorate equivalent of the Ph.D., and the J.D. is not, the J.D. is not a doctorate. However, the S.J.D. and J.D. are completely different kinds of degrees—the S.J.D. is a research doctorate and the J.D. is a professional doctorate.
Even though comparing law degrees from different jurisdictions is problematic, attempts at such comparisons have also caused misunderstandings. Because the J.D. and the LL.B. are both first professional degrees some have said that they are therefore equivalent, which however ignores the facts that (besides the LL.B. being a bachelors) not all LL.B.'s are the same and that the curriculum of the J.D. in the U.S. and the LL.B. outside the U.S. differ substantially. It has also been stated that both the LL.B. and the J.D. in the U.S. is sufficient for a bar exam in the U.S., however this applies only to an LL.B. awarded by an U.S. institution, and even though some universities in the U.S. awarded the LL.B. earlier in the 20th century, the curriculum of the programs and those of the J.D. were identical, and very different than the undergraduate LL.B. in England. Finally, it has also been pointed out that the London School of Economics, Columbia University and the University of Southern California offer a joint degree program, with credits from the undergraduate LL.B. program and the J.D. program perfectly transferrable. However, this is the only such program, and for LSE students (one of the very best schools in Europe) entrance into the program is extremely competitive, and only a very small percentage of students are deemed academically prepared to participate in the J.D. program.
Some confusion also arises in the attempt to compare the J.D. (a professional degree) to the Ph.D. (a research degree). It is sometimes mentioned that the pay rate for J.D. holders in the U.S. government is sometimes below that of holders of a Ph.D. Also, the J.D. program is typically only three years long and does not require a dissertation, while the Ph.D. requires an original research dissertation and usually takes at least four years to complete. However, the two degrees cannot be properly compared in this way as, again, the J.D. is a professional doctorate, while the Ph.D. is a research doctorate.
The Executive Juris Doctor was created recently by two for-profit online schools, who are the only ones that currently offer the degree, and is not accredited by any major body. Concord Law School claims trademark rights to the EJD acronym, the only degree that has had a trademark claim (the purpose of a trademark is to reserve exclusive use for commercial purposes). The program is offered by the online schools of Concord Law School of Kaplan University and the Witkin School of Law at William Howard Taft University. Both institutions are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), but not the American Bar Association. Although J.D. graduates from these schools can, with special procedures and extra requirements, sit for the California bar exam, the California State Bar Association has not approved of the Executive Juris Doctor as a qualifying law degree, and these graduates are not able to sit for a bar exam in any jurisdiction. The program requires only three years of part-time study and 72 units. The program was created to meet the needs of professionals with no intention of practicing law, but who seek legal study to supplement their own specialization.