Most definitions of law have a common interpretation that it is related to rules, set by groups, organisations or governments. As a field, it deals with “the system of rules of a particular country, group, or area of activity” (as defined in Cambridge Dictionaries online).
In Pearson’s Letters to a Law Student, the reason for studying law and its importance to society are highlighted in the four different functions of law, namely “Defending us from evil”, “Promoting the common good”, “Resolving disputes over limited resources” and “Encouraging people to do the right thing”.
Entrance into a law degree program varies from institution to institution and usually depends on the country wherein the degree program will be taken. Some countries have universities offering bachelor of laws (LLB) as an undergraduate degree. In this case, graduates of this program undergo further training and education before practicing in the field. In some countries, LLB is taken as a second degree that grants bar exam eligibility to graduates of the program. Countries that offer this include the United Kingdom, India, Pakistan and Malaysia.
Another law degree program is the Juris Doctor (JD), which is a postgraduate degree. This is usually the requirement to be able to practice law in a certain number of countries including the United States. Requirements for admission into this type of program include a certain grade in the Law School Admission Test or LSAT (which measures reading comprehension and logical and analytical reasoning) and a high undergraduate grade point average. Extra curricular activities, involvement in the community and leadership experience may also be taken into consideration. Other requirements may include an application essay and admissions interview.
For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
Most curriculums for JD programs aim to equip their students not only with the knowledge lawyers need but the skills as well. Core requirements usually included courses on contracts, property law, torts, criminal law, constitutional law, legal analysis and civil procedures. Students are usually given the chance to choose a specialisation, focus or track in the last two years of the program.
Availability of specialisations depends on the offerings of each university. Below is a short list of specialisations offered by different institutions:
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates. For example, in the United States, accreditation of schools and programs is handled by the American Bar Association (ABA).
Graduates of law degree programs need to take bar exams in order to practice law as licensed professionals. Individuals are advised to check licensing requirements of the state or country wherein they are looking to practice, as these usually vary per area.
Juris Doctor programs normally take three years. When taken as a part of a JD-Master’s program, it will usually take longer depending on the focus of the master’s.
For further studies in the field of law, the Master of Laws or LLM is available, allowing individuals to focus on their chosen area of specialisation, generally taking a year of full time studies to complete. The most advanced degree offered in law is the Doctor of Juridical Science, which requires both extensive research and experience.
Those who graduate from a JD program and pass the bar exam in the US generally practice as lawyers or attorneys-at-law and can work in positions with law firms, corporations, District Attorney offices and other government legal departments. Positions include plaintiff attorneys, corporate lawyers, contract negotiators and consultants.
In the UK, graduates of law degree programs can work as solicitors or barristers. Solicitors are present in the government, law firms, businesses and banks and work generally outside of the court. Barristers, often distinguished by the wig and gown worn at court, work at higher levels of court and represent clients.
Law degree programs arm graduates with transferable skills that can be applied in many fields such as business, politics and research. Law graduates are persuasive, confident and detail-oriented, and the hone skills including evaluation and analysis of data, reasoning, problem-solving and oral and written communication.
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