Doctor of law

Doctor of law

Doctor of Law or Doctor of Laws is a doctoral degree in law. The application of the term varies from country to country, and includes degrees such as the LL.D., Ph.D., J.D., J.S.D., and Dr. iur.


By country


In Argentina the Doctor of Laws or Doctor of Juridical Sciences is the highest academic qualification in the field of Jurisprudence.[1] To obtain the doctoral degree the applicant must have previously achieved, at least the undergraduate degree of Attorney.[2] (Título de Abogado). The doctorates in Jurisprudence in Argentina might have different denominations as is described as follow:

  • Doctorate in Law (Offered by the U of BA, NU of the L, and NU of R)
  • Doctorate in Penal Law
  • Doctorate in Penal Law and Penal Sciences
  • Doctorate in Juridical Sciences
  • Doctorate in Juridical and Social Sciences (Offered by the NU of C)
  • Doctorate in Private Law (Offered by the NU of T)
  • Doctorate in Public Law and Government Economics (Offered by the NU of T)


In Brazil, the Doctor of Laws degree, known in Portuguese as Doutor em Direito or Doutor em Ciências Jurídicas, is the highest academic degree in law available.

In some of the country's most important universities there is a higher title known as Livre docência, like the habilitation in some European countries. However, this higher title is not a degree in the strict sense, because "livre docência" nowadays is an internal title, that applies solely within the institution granting it.

In the past, "livre docência" was a degree in the fullness of the term, and a professor bearing the title would enjoy the privileges of "livre docência" if he transferred from one institution to another; there are still living professors who hold the "old" livre docência degrees; but all new titles of that name only confer privileges within the institution granting it.

The doctoral degree is awarded upon the completion and the successful defense of a thesis prepared by the doctoral candidate under the supervision of a tutor. The thesis must be examined by a board of five professors, holders of the title of doctor or of a "livre docência". Two of the members of the board must be professors from another institution. In most Brazilian Law Schools, the candidates are also required to earn a minimum number of credits.

Unlike the rules of other countries, the Brazilian norms governing the grant of doctoral titles do not require the publication of the thesis as a precondition for the award of the degree. Nevertheless, copies of the thesis must be delivered to the institution's library. Usually, doctoral thesis are published by specialized editors after the grant of the doctoral title.

If one obtains a doctoral title in a foreign country, one cannot enjoy the academic privileges of the title in Brazil unless the title be first validated by a Brazilian University. In that case, the doctor asking for the validation of the title will present his thesis and other documents relating to his foreign doctoral course to a board examiners of the Brazilian University and the examiners will then pass judgement on whether the work done by the candidate adheres to the minimum standards of quality that are usually required by a Brazilian university when granting doctoral degrees.

Admission to doctoral courses is almost universally reserved to holders of a Master's degree (the Master's in Brazil is a graduate degree and is not the first professional degree). Therefore, a bachelor of Laws (a bearer of the first professional degree), seeking the degree of doctor must usually complete a postgraduate course to attain the degree of Master of Laws (to attain that degree one must write and defend a dissertation before a panel of three professors, bearing the title of master, doctor or a "livre docência, and also complete credits), and only then, after being a Master of Laws, one will apply for admission to a doctoral course.

There are, however, a few universities that allow "direct" admission to the doctoral course without previous completion of the Master's course in exceptional circumstances. Thus, in rare cases, a bachelor of Laws (i.e., a holder of the first professional degree), can be admitted directly to a doctoral course.

Usually, one is allowed three years time to complete a Master of Laws degree, and four years time to complete the doctoral course. So, if one were to graduate from Law School and immediately enter a Master of Laws course and a Doctor of Laws course in immediate succession, that person would become a doctor about seven years after graduating from the Law School. On the other hand, in the rare cases in which a bachelor of Laws is allowed to pursue a "direct" doctorate, he is usually allowed five years time to complete the doctoral course.

Unlike the Master of Laws dissertation, the Doctoral Thesys must contain an original contribution to the field of Law under study.


[The "LL" in LL.D., LL.M and LL.B is a Latinate plural form. The use of the double letter denotes a plural. I think this article is otherwise quite fine. I urge you to pluralize all the LL's in the article. Also, my observation is that in recent years the LL.D. is reserved for honorary degrees given to people the university wishes to honour for outstanding work and is no longer a degree in the study of law. The doctorate one earns is S.J.D.]

In Canada, there are two law-related doctorates. Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) is the academic doctorate degree and Doctor of Jurisprudence (J.D. or Juris Doctor) is the professional degree.

The first law degree was known until recently as the Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.). However, since law schools in Canada generally insist on a prior degree or some equivalent in order to grant admission, it was a more advanced degree than the LL.B. awarded abroad, which would accept high school graduates[3] . So most Canadian Universities now issue the professional doctorate, the J.D. (Doctor Juris) or Doctor of Jurisprudence instead of the LL.B. The University of Saskatchewan replaced existing LL.B. degrees with the new J.D. in 2010 because the Canadian LL.B. is exactly equivalent to the J.D.[4]

As in the United States, most law schools in Canada award graduates the designation "Juris Doctor".[5] All Canadian Juris Doctor programs consist of three years, and have similar content in their mandatory first year courses. As with U.S. J.D. programs, such as that of the New York University Law School,[6] the mandatory first year courses in Canadian law schools outside Quebec include "public" "constitutional" or "state" law, tort law, contract law, criminal law, and some sort of "professional practice" course. 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.

After the first law degree, one may pursue a second, the Masters of Law (LL.M.) and after that, the Doctor of Law (LL.D.), at some Canadian universities. Several universities award it only as an honorary degree. However, when awarded by a law school, it is an earned degree. Of the universities in Canada that offer earned academic doctorates in law, four (University of Ottawa,[7] University of Montreal,[8] Laval University,[9] and University of Quebec at Montreal[10]) offer LL.Ds, three (University of British Columbia,[11] Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, and University of Victoria[12]) offer Ph.Ds, two (University of Toronto,[13] and Dalhousie University[14]) offer J.S.D./S.J.D degrees (Doctor of Laws), and one (McGill University[15]) offers a D.C.L (Doctor of Civil Law). The differences largely reflect the divide between Canada's two legal systems (the common law and the civil law). Faculties that teach in the civil law tradition grant LL.D degrees, whereas those in the common law tradition grant either Ph.Ds or J.S.Ds.

Czech Republic and Slovakia (former Czechoslovakia)

In the Czech Republic and Slovakia the Doctor is a postgraduate degree in two types - as a traditional so-called small doctorate (JUDr) and much important PhD doctorate.

JUDr (Juris Utrisque Doctor) is a degree with tradition of few centuries, originally the highest possible degree. Nowadays, its scholar importancy is quite limited but it serves as traditional and popular badge degree especially useful for attorneys. In older times with no Master degree, JUDr. served as only law degree, somehow similar to master+special exam. Nowadays, it is disputable, if JUDr. is longer a law degree or only a law title, since it is not bounded with any special studies at the university. Requirements for obtaining JUDr degree are Master (Mgr.) degree in law, to write a thesis and to pass an oral exam called rigorosum. Also the thesis is sometimes called rigorosum. JUDr is nowadays basically degree (title) of legal professionals and has no scholar value, especially not in comparison with PhD. Many JUDr. theses are just slightly changed or extended Master theses.

Doctoral studies leading to PhD degree are quite different from JUDr exam. PhD studies are internal (PhD student is at the same time teacher at the University) which lasts 3 years and external up to 8 years long. PhD. students are obliged to pass some exams during the studies and before all to work on their dissertation. The PhD is intended basically for candidates interested in an academic career.

Czech system is in many way similar to German and Austrian. Therefore, PhD. degree is necessary for habilitation procedure. Through habilitation, to doctor of law who submits his Habilitation work (similar to German Habilitationsschrift) can be given a capacity and title of Docent (Doc.), similar to German Dozent, Privatdozent or US Assistant Professor. Docent is not a degree, but a scholar title.

Only Docent can be appointed Professor through another special procedure. Unlike Germany (and unlike own Czech tradition), Professor is not a function (a seat, Cathedra) at the University, but just a scholar title. This leads to many problems, especially to the phenomenon of so-called flying professors, who are teaching at two or three universities at the same time and to the decline of academic life.

European and Commonwealth usage

In the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Europe, the degree is a higher doctorate usually awarded on the basis of exceptionally insightful and distinctive publications that contain significant and original contributions to the study of law. Some universities, such as the University of Oxford, award a Doctor of Civil Law degree instead. In South Africa, the LL.D. is awarded by many university law faculties as the highest degree in law, also based upon research and completion of a Ph.D. equivalent dissertation like in most European countries. The LL.D. may also be awarded as an honorary degree based upon a person's contributions to society.


In Finland, the Doctor of Laws (Finnish: Oikeustieteen tohtori, OTT) is the highest academic degree in law, based on 60 credits of course studies and, most importantly, successful completion of a doctoral dissertation. The dissertation usually takes the form of a monograph at least of 250 pages in length, or of a series of published articles. A successful oral disputation is also required. It usually takes at least four years to complete the degree.

The degree of the Doctor of Laws does not qualify its holder for judicial offices. Instead, the degree of the Master of Laws (Finnish: Oikeustieteen maisteri) is the requirement for the membership of the Finnish Bar Association and for judicial offices. As the doctoral programs for the doctoral degree are, in principle, open for the holders of all master's degrees, the possession of the degree of the Doctor of Laws is not a guarantee for the possession of the Master of Laws -degree. However, it is very seldom that someone who has not graduated in law graduates for a doctor of law.


In France the Doctor of Law degree (doctorat en droit also called doctorat d'État) was an higher doctorate in the fields of law supersed in 1984 by the habilitation. The reseach degree in law is now a PhD, followed in many case by an agrégation exam. Only the master of law is necessary to pass the bar exam.


The Doctor of Laws (Doktor der Rechte) is the terminal degree in law, abbreviated as Dr. iur. (Doctor iuris) or Dr. jur. (Doctor juris). The terminology varies: while most universities refer to the degree as Doctor of Laws (Doktor der Rechte (pl.), e.g. Munich, Münster, Berlin (HU), Cologne, Tübingen, Göttingen), some others refer to it either as Doctor of Jurisprudence (Doktor der Rechtswissenschaft, e.g. Heidelberg) or Doctor of Law (Doktor des Rechts (sg.), e.g. Berlin (FU)). It is conferred based on a thesis consisting of a suitable body of original academic research, and an oral examination (rigorosum or disputation). The thesis must have been published as a book or - less common - as a series of articles in a peer reviewed law journal before the degree can be formally conferred. Admission usually requires the grade of "Fully Satisfactory" (approximately top quintile of class) in the student's first Staatsexamen (the Master's level first professional degree). Having successfully passed the second Staatsexamen (the German equivalent to the bar exam) is not required.

The Doctor of Both Laws (Doktor beider Rechte), awarded as Dr. iur. utr. (Doctor iuris utriusque, conferred e.g. in Würzburg) is rare, since it means considering both Civil Law and Canonical Law. A doctorate solely in the latter area is the degree of Dr. iur. can. (Doctor iuris canonici).

Approximately ten percent of German law graduates hold a doctoral degree. However, the Doctor of Laws is still only the first step to tenure at German law schools. Despite the initiative to establish a junior professorship with tenure option after five to seven years, and special professorships specializing in teaching (Lehrprofessur), to become a university professor of law a habilitation (de iure not an academic degree) is still mandatory at most German law schools.


In Italy, the title of "Master doctor of law" (Dottore magistrale in Giurisprudenza) is the title given to students who complete the master degree in law, the Laurea magistrale degree (5 years). Despite of the Bologna process, Law is one of the studies that still sticks to the traditional Italian system without a bachelor degree and a Master as the first academic degree. Once a prospective lawyer has been awarded the "Master doctor of law" (Dottore magistrale in Giurisprudenza), and worked two years like trainee lawyer, he or she is required to pass a state bar examination in order to be licensed to practice as an Attorney at Law (Avvocato). Previously, "dottore in giurisprudneza" was the title given to the students that completed the old course of studies in law (4 years).


In Malta, the European Union's smallest member state, the LL.D. is a doctorate-level academic degree in law requiring at least three years of post-graduate full-time study at the University of Malta,[16] Malta's national university. At least three years of previous law study are required for entry. Students are required to complete coursework in a number of core areas of law, as well as to submit a thesis which is to be "an original work on the approved subject or other contribution to the knowledge showing that he/she has carried out sufficient research therein".[17] It confers the title of Doctor, which in Malta is rigorously used to address a holder of the degree. The LL.D. is one of the requirements for admission to the profession of advocate in Malta (an advocate, as opposed to a legal procurator, has rights of representation in superior courts).

In Malta, practising lawyers are of three designations – notaries, legal procurators and advocates. The Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degree is an undergraduate degree that of itself is not sufficient for admission into any of the legal professions. A one-year full time taught post-graduate diploma of Notary Public (N.P.) is required after the LL.B. for admission to the profession of notary public, while a taught post-graduate diploma of Legal Procurator (L.P.) is required for admission to the profession of legal procurator. A legal procurator is a lawyer in Malta that has rights of audience in the lower courts, a profession that was existent in Malta as early, and even prior to 1553.[18] All three professions also require members to be holders of a warrant issued by the President of Malta, obtainable after a minimum of one year of work experience in that profession, and examination. It is not possible for a Maltese lawyer to hold a warrant in more than one of the professions at a time.

Notable holders of the LL.D. degree include Dr. Ugo Mifsud Bonnici (former President of Malta), Prof. Guido de Marco (former President of the United Nations General Assembly and former President of Malta), Dr. George Borg Olivier (first post-independence Prime Minister of Malta), and Dr. Lawrence Gonzi (current Prime Minister of Malta).


In Sweden, the Doctor of Laws (LLD) is the highest academic degree in law. It is a research degree, which combines 240 credit hours (or equivalent of four full-time years of work). Candidates have the option to complete a dissertation or a monograph of a series of published articles. Although not required to practice law, the LLD is a pre-requisite for an academic career.

United Kingdom

In the UK, the degree of Doctor of Laws is a higher doctorate, ranking above the Ph. D., awarded upon submission of a portfolio of advanced research. It is also often awarded honoris causa to public figures (typically those associated with politics or the law) whom the university wishes to honour. In most British universities, the degree is styled "Doctor of Laws" and abbreviated LL. D., however some universities award instead the degree of Doctor of Civil Law, abbreviated DCL.

In former years, Doctors of Law were a distinct form of Attorney-at-Law who were empowered to act as advocates in civil law courts. The Doctors had their own Inns of Court, which was called Doctors' Commons. In 1953, a case was brought under long-dormant law in the High Court of Chivalry. The opening arguments in that case were by George Drewry Squibb, who was simultaneously distinguished as a barrister, a doctor of laws, and a historian. Squibb argued, to the satisfaction of the court, that since the modern class of Doctors of Laws were no longer trained as advocates, their role must necessarily be performed by barristers.[19] This was because Victorian reforms, which had unified the other classes of court attorney into the single profession of Barrister, had overlooked the Doctors of Law.

United States

The term "Doctor of Law" refers to the degree of Juris Doctor (JD), which in the U.S. is the only first professional law degree,[20][21][22][23] and to the S.J.D. (Scientiae Juridicae Doctor or J.S.D., the degree name in English or Doctor of Juridical Science).[22][24] The S.J.D. is the research doctorate in law, and as such it is generally accepted as comparable to the more commonly awarded research doctorate, the Ph.D.[25] The S.J.D. is described as the "highest degree in law" by the University of Virginia,[26] the "terminal degree in law" by Indiana University[27] and Harvard Law School [28] and as the "most advanced law degree" by Yale Law School,[29] Georgetown Law,[30] New York University [31] and Stanford University.[32] The National Association of Legal Professionals states that the J.S.D./S.J.D. is "typically the most advanced (or terminal) law degree that would follow the earning of the LL.M. and J.D. degrees."[33] However, while the degree may be the highest research doctorate in law, the J.D. is also a doctorate (the highest professional doctorate in law),[34] as evinced by universities' description of the S.J.D. as a a "postdoctoral degree."[32][35] The American Bar Association has issued a Council Statement[36] stating that the J.D. be considered as being equivalent to the Ph.D. for employment and educational purposes.[37] The S.J.D. typically requires three to five years to complete, and requires an advanced study in law as a scientific discipline and a dissertation, which serves as an original contribution to the scholarly field of law.[38] Notable recipients of the degree of Doctor of Juridical Science include: Harvey L. Strelzin (New York U., 1906);[39] Charles Hamilton Houston (Harvard, 1923);[40] Lowell Turrentine (Harvard, 1929);[41] Judge William Henry Hastie (Harvard, 1932);[42] Justice Bernard Jefferson (Harvard, 1934);[43] Pauli Murray (Yale, 1965);[44] Ma Ying-jeou (Harvard, 1981)[45] and Ayala Procaccia (University of Pennsylvania, 1972).

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ National Commission of University Accreditation: Doctorate Engine Seeker[dead link]
  2. ^ "National Law of Higher Education" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  3. ^ Belford, Terrence. "Why Change To A JD Degree?". Globe and Mail. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  4. ^ "Become A Juris Doctor". University of Saskatchewn Law School. Retrieved 5 April 2011. 
  5. ^ Osgoode Law School "Dean Patrick Monahan on the Growing Number of Canadian Law Schools Switching from the LLB to JD Degree Designation" [1].
  6. ^ Canadian law school concentrations, certificates and joint-degree programs [2].
  7. ^ "Graduate Studies in Law". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  8. ^ "Présentation - Faculté de droit - Université de Montréal". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  9. ^ "Index des programmes - Faculté de droit | Université Laval". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  10. ^ "UQAM | Doctorat en droit | Université du Québec à Montréal". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  11. ^ "UBC Faculty of Law - Doctorate (Ph.D) Program". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  12. ^ [3][dead link]
  13. ^ "University of Toronto - Faculty of Law: Prospective Students". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  14. ^ [4][dead link]
  15. ^ [5][dead link]
  16. ^ "Faculty of Laws - Faculty of Laws - University of Malta". 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  17. ^ "Faculty of Laws - Faculty of Laws - University of Malta". 2009-07-16. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  18. ^ [6][dead link]
  19. ^ Squibb, G.D. : The High Court of Chivalry : Oxford University Press, London : ISBN 0-19-825140-8
  20. ^ "Selected Degree Abbreviations" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  21. ^ "The Graduate School :: Doctor of Philosophy Degree Requirements". 2010-07-21. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  22. ^ a b "Style Manual, Samford University Office of Communication". 2008-08-14. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  23. ^ "Penn: Commencement: Honorary Degrees". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "LL.M. and S.J.D. Programs, Graduate Studies in Law". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  27. ^ "S.J.D. Degree". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  28. ^ "S.J.D. Courses & Academics". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  29. ^ "Yale Law School | Contact the Graduate Programs Office". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  30. ^ The George Washington University. "SJD - The George Washington University". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  31. ^ "NYU Law - LL.M. & J.S.D.: J.S.D. Program". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  32. ^ a b Stanford Law School. "Doctor of Science of Law (JSD) | Stanford Law School". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  33. ^ "The Association for Legal Career Professionals | Working Glossary". NALP. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  34. ^ See Council of Graduate Schools in the United States. (1966). The doctor's degree in professional fields. A statement by the Association of Graduate Schools and the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States. Washington D.C. p. 3. Quoted in Forni, P. (1989). "Models for Doctoral Programs." Nursing and Health Care. v. 10, n.8. p. 432
  35. ^
  36. ^ Council Statements are intended to provide law schools with guidance on a variety of issues and are advisory only. Council Statements are not and should not be considered the equivalent of Standards, Interpretations, and Rules for the Approval of Law Schools.
  37. ^
  38. ^ "Tulane Law School Prospective Students". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  39. ^ "Press Release Archives #417-97 Leg. creating Harvey L. Strelzin Street". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  40. ^ "Charles Hamilton Houston legal definition of Charles Hamilton Houston. Charles Hamilton Houston synonyms by the Free Online Law Dictionary". 1950-04-22. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  41. ^ "Lowell Turrentine, retired Stanford law school professor, dead at 96". 1988-01-26. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  42. ^ "William Henry Hastie". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  43. ^ "Justice Jefferson Remembered as Soft-Spoken Legal Giant". 1910-06-29. Retrieved 2010-10-11. 
  44. ^ Yardley, Jonathan (1987-05-07). "A Woman's Triumphs In a Fight for Justice". Newsday.'s+Triumphs+In+a+Fight+for+Justice&pqatl=google. Retrieved 2010-03-30. 
  45. ^ "Biography". Retrieved 2010-10-11. 

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