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What is a JD Degree?

April 1, 2021 | Staff Writers

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If you are pursuing law, you will be interested in obtaining a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree. J.D. degree is the highest education level available in the legal field. The professional degree prepares students to take bar exams as a requirement to practice law within their states. Obtaining a J.D. degree requires you to first enroll in a law school. The law school must be approved and accredited by the American Bar Association. Besides, the curriculum of the J.D. degree helps teach law students various legal skills needed to become successful attorneys. 

There are different ways of entering the legal profession. One of the primary routes is first earning an undergraduate degree in law or legal science. After successful completion of your undergraduate degree, you should pursue a Juris Doctorate. The undergraduate degree must not necessarily be a law or legal science. Some students with undergraduate degrees in various fields such as business and political science might opt to enroll in a law school to undertake law programs. To apply for admission in a law school, an undergraduate must first take the LSAT test and only earn their Juris Doctorate after passing the test. 

A Juris doctor needs to have excellent communication and analytical skills to practice law efficiently. A Juris Doctorate incorporates several courses. J.D. students must complete all the required courses before graduating with Juris Doctorate. This article explores all the aspects of a Juris Doctorate to help educate students aspiring to practice law on what it entails and its importance. Some of the things discussed in detail include: 

  1. What is a Juris Doctor (JD) degree? 
  2. Types of courses in a J.D. program 
  3. Benefits of earning a J.D. degree 
  4. Career opportunities for J.D. graduates 

What is a Juris Doctor (JD) Degree?

A Juris Doctor Degree is the foundational law degree that paves the way for a career in law. Law students always obtain their J.D. degree taking their bar exam, and after which they are sworn in as attorneys. Masters of laws degree and J.D. degrees have often been used interchangeably despite the two having clear distinctions. While J.D. offers an overview of several aspects of law, a master’s of law degree focuses on a specific law area. Besides, LL.M is a specialized advanced law degree. 

What Are the Defining Features of Juris Doctor (JD) Degree? 

Juris Doctor degree has several features that help differentiate it from undergraduate law degrees. These features make the Juris Doctor somehow unique in the legal profession. For instance, law students are expected to earn a Juris Doctor degree before taking their bar exams, which undoubtedly proves that a Juris Doctor degree is a stepping stone to the legal profession. 

Unlike undergraduate degrees obtained from accredited law institutions, a Juris Doctor degree is obtained from a law school. Hence, a law student must first complete his degree from a college or university before enrolling in a law school to get his J.D. degree. Juris Doctor programs typically take two years to complete. Another defining feature for Juris Doctor degree is that it prepares students with fundamental education on the legal system and laws that govern the states and country. The J.D. degree can be undertaken together with LL.M as a joint degree program or two other masters in law programs, leading to a dual master’s degrees.

How Does a Juris Doctor Degree Compare to Other Degrees? 

If you are interested in pursuing a law career, choosing a degree program can be quite confusing. The legal profession requires first obtaining an undergraduate degree from a law accredited institution before enrolling for your Juris Doctor degree. However, depending on the career goals, one might either earn a Juris Doctor degree or a master’s degree in law. 

J.D. degree compares with other degrees in different ways. For instance, earning a J.D. degree will inevitably land you in the legal field to practice law as a lawyer, magistrate, among other legal professions. However, earning different degrees, including LLB and LL.M, doesn’t guarantee you a career in law. With these undergraduate and graduate degrees, you might opt to pursue other careers different from law professions. J.D. degrees are typically undertaken in law schools, unlike other undergraduate degrees obtained from other colleges and universities. 

In some instances, J.D. degrees and other law-related degrees undertake some standard law courses to teach and prepare law students the fundamentals of law. However, unlike different degrees that train students in specific law areas, Juris Doctor gives an overview of law areas. Most people believe a Juris Doctor degree is a lesser degree since that program is relatively shorter than other degrees. Let’s point out clearly that the Juris Doctor degree is the highest degree attainable by law students. It requires two years of study, while LL.M and LLB require one and four years of study. 

What Is the Difference Between a Juris Doctor and A Law Degree? 

Law degrees differ considerably from Juris Doctors, especially master’s in law degrees. Here are some of the critical difference between the two:

  • J.D. degree prepares students to practice law, while a law degree teaches students the fundamentals of law. LL.M Law degree’s main objective is to provide law students and professionals with advanced training. 
  • Law degrees are more theoretical compared to J.D. degrees. Law degrees mainly focus on the theoretical aspects of the law. On the other hand, J.D. programs teach students what law is and how to apply it in real-life scenarios. 
  • Law degrees, especially LL.M degrees, are always optional. Having a J.D. degree is enough for individuals seeking to practice law, especially those already overwhelmed with law school costs. They only need LL.B. to learn necessary law skills and LL.M to advance their law training. 

Types of Courses in A JD Program 

A Juris Doctorate’s primary purpose is to help prepare students with a well-rounded knowledge of the country’s laws and legal system. Students must undertake several coursework to gain this knowledge, including general courses and courses that apply to their specialization areas. This page extensively explores some of the courses that law students will be undertaking. 

What Courses Are Required in A J.D. Program? 

Law schools accredited by the American Bar Association are expected to undergo a specific curriculum with several common courses and core-courses specific to J.D. students. These courses are taught through lectures, group work, presentations, seminars, class debates, and practical law training in court sessions to help students learn the necessary legal and technical skills, including argument formation, research and analysis, and public speaking. 

Some of the common courses mandatory for J.D. students include: 

  • Civil Procedure: Some of the topics covered in this course include an introduction to equity, civil actions at law, subject matter jurisdiction of the federal courts, among other classes. 
  • Criminal Law: Criminal law course introduces law students to the fundamental principles of criminal law. Some of the topics include the history and philosophy of modern criminal law, the elements of major crimes, the basic dimensions of criminality, common law, and many more. 
  • Constitutional law: Constitutional law is among the fundamental aspects of the J.D. degree. The coursework focuses on the critical elements of politics. This course aims to train law students on ways of crafting constitutional laws. 

Other core courses undertaken by students in J.D. programs include: 

  • Property 
  • Torts 
  • Administrative or regulatory law 
  • Contracts 

How Quickly Can You Earn a J.D. Degree? 

Most students are always anxious about attending law school due to the several law documentaries that have made law schools seem terrifying. Besides, others feel intimidated for lack of correct knowledge on the institution. It is undoubtedly true that law schools are quite different from colleges and universities in different ways. A typical J.D. degree program accredited by ABA accreditation will last three years. However, in some cases, the program might last three years to four years, especially part-time programs. An accelerated online degree might take you two full years to complete. These years are always intense and academically demanding. 

How Can You Best Prepare for Coursework in A JD Program? 

Here are some of the common tips that can help you best prepare for coursework in a J.D. program: 

  • Do the Reading: You must read all the assigned materials for your course. Ensure that you always conduct further research on various topics. 
  • Attend all Classes: Professors typically cover all the essential aspects of the class course. Failing to attend your lectures might disadvantage you significantly. Besides, the lectures you attend always factor in your final grades. 
  • Participate in Class: One of the most effective ways of staying alert is engaging in the learning process. Try to answer as many questions as possible. 
  • Prepare an Outline for Each Course: Personal course outlines help you prepare effectively for the next classes. It also helps you identify the days for exams and assignment deadlines, ensuring you are not left out of the class.

Benefits of Earning A JD Degree 

Earning a J.D. degree has several benefits to law students who intend to practice law in the criminal justice system. J.D. program provides students with a strong foundation in legal matters and other related fields. Earning a J.D. degree exposes students to multitudes of career options in the area of law, media, commerce and industry, politics, social work, and more. Students also develop strong analytical and critical thinking skills. This page explores some of the benefits of earning a J.D. degree, especially to individuals not planning to practice law after being sworn in as legal attorneys. 

How Can A JD Degree Help You When Searching for A Job? 

With the increased number of graduates flooding the workforce market annually, it is quite devastating to land jobs, especially within the first six months after graduation. However, all these usually depend on the professional field one is interested in. The number of law graduates has substantially increased in the last few years. To this effect, finding suitable jobs in the criminal justice system has been quite challenging. 

Today, it is not peculiar to find undergraduate law students in various professions not related to law. However, this has not been the case for J.D. degree law graduates. According to various labor statistics, a law school graduate is likely to land their entry-level jobs within the first six months after graduation. So, how does the J.D. program help in your job search: 

  • Wide Range of Career Options: J.D. degree exposes students to a wide range of career options in various sectors. With this, a graduate student has multiple career paths to choose from, making it easier to land jobs in law-related fields. 
  • Increased Flexibility: J.D. programs train and prepare students to take up several roles in society, which leads to increased job flexibility as students might opt to apply for jobs based on their interests and career goals. This flexibility makes it easy for the students to pursue different careers. 
  • Skills and Knowledge: Unlike undergraduate law degrees, J.D. degree programs equip students with the necessary skills and knowledge to succeed in law practice. These skills, including analytical and argument formation skills, are highly needed in the criminal justice system. Therefore, you are likely to land jobs ahead of your peers. 
  • Advanced Education Level: J.D. degree is the highest attainable professional law degree. With this, students have a well-rounded knowledge of all the fundamental law areas. Additionally, J.D. graduates might possess dual degrees, which they earn by obtaining LL.M and J.D. degrees. Of course, employers are always on the look-out for students with proficient knowledge. This makes J.D. graduates the preferred choice for most employers. 
  • Experiential learning: J.D. program courses incorporate experiential learning as a practical approach for training. Law school students have been subjected to court training where they apply the theoretical aspects learned in class. This training enables students to earn experience way before they graduate from law school. Students are also required to go through various law internship programs to gain experience in the legal profession. 

What Are the Benefits of a J.D. Degree If You Don’t Plan On Practicing Law as A Career? 

Graduating with a J.D. degree doesn’t mean you only need to practice law. There are several other career options that you might pursue depending on your career goals and interests. Besides, legal education enables you to learn various law aspects that might help your everyday life. Here are some of the benefits of a J.D. degree if you don’t intend to practice law in the criminal justice system as a Juris Doctor: 

  • Multiple Skills: One sure thing about obtaining a J.D. degree is earning various legal and technical skills unique to law professionals. You will be able to learn critical and analytical skills in detail. Most of these skills are learned by attending law school programs. 
  • Credibility: Law degrees, especially J.D. degrees, are highly respected in American society. Introducing yourself as a Juris Doctor would portray you as a hardworking and intelligent individual, which helps bolster your credibility in the professional fields you are pursuing other than law practice. 
  • Excellent Alternative Careers: J.D. degree program exposes you to several excellent career alternatives to law practice. Some of these career options include law professor, law librarian, law school career counselor, law firm administrator, civil rights investigator, and more. 
  • Knowledge of Rights and Responsibilities: Attending law school and passing your bar exams is a clear indication that you are aware of several rights and responsibilities, mostly civic and constitutional rights. Besides, you will also understand some of the reasons behind state and federal laws and their implications. 
  • Intellectual Challenge: Studying J.D. degree is highly involving and requires a lot of academic commitment. Besides, it always involves critical thinking and argument formulation, which is truly an intellectual challenge. 
  • Identify Legal Constraints for Great Business Ideas: J.D. programs enable MBA professionals with great business ideas to identify some of the legal constraints that might impact their businesses. Understanding the legal environment of business allows you to anticipate the likely legal regulations and put in place mitigations strategies. 

Who Would Benefit Most from Earning a J.D Degree? 

Students with the necessary law skills are likely to benefit from earning a J.D. degree as the degree program exposes them to law practice. Besides, professionals pursuing an MBA seeking to learn the legal environment of business, including business regulations, should consider pursuing a J.D. degree together with their MBA program. The degree enhances their skills and knowledge on legal issues and exposes them to several other alternative career paths. Additionally, those aspiring for various political positions are always likely to benefit from earning a J.D. degree. Others who are likely to benefit from the degree include professional consultants, accountants, and those aspiring to teach legal education as a law professor

Career Opportunities for JD Graduates

A Law school degree can lead to several job options in a variety of fields. Prospective attorneys need to assess the likely career paths they might pursue after graduating to enable them to make informed decisions about the degree program to enroll in. Besides, it is essential to enroll in one of the country’s affordable law schools. Getting information on the various career fields enables one to identify the best law schools that will likely prepare them for that profession. 

Here are some of the legal job opportunities that legal attorneys might consider pursuing: 

Advertising lawyer: Advertising lawyer will enable you to take up roles in the marketing world. As an attorney, your primary responsibility will be ensuring that ads for products and services comply with legal prohibitions against misleading, deceiving, or defrauding consumers. Besides, you will also advise companies on the best ways of ensuring your marketing strategies adhere to the consumer protection laws and regulations. 

  • Regulatory Attorney: These J.D. graduates offer expertise in various law areas. They mainly work as government regulators. They design multiple regulations about securities laws and ensure the rules are obeyed. In some cases, they offer legal advice to sophisticated companies such as insurance companies. 
  • Antitrust Lawyers: These legal experts offer advice on various ways of abiding by government rules designed to ensure fair market competition, helping prevent companies from hiking the prices attached to their products and services. 
  • Dispute Resolution Attorney: These attorneys are capable of settling cases to help avoid court trials through dispute resolution. The attorneys bring the aggrieved parties together to help come to a common understanding. 
  • Compliance Attorney: These attorneys work to ensure that organizations and their employees abide by the regulatory requirements of different industries. They provide legal advice to companies on ways of formulating company policies regarding employee conduct. 
  • Criminal Prosecutor: They are responsible for presenting cases against criminal suspects. They usually act on behalf of the government against the accused persons. Their expertise will determine whether a suspect will be exonerated or punished. 
  • Environmental Lawyer: These lawyers have the legal expertise needed to interpret environmental laws and regulations. They mainly work for government environmental agencies and environmental non-profit organizations. 
  • Divorce Attorney: These attorneys specialize in family laws. They usually represent couples who have family issues by helping them navigate divorces, resolve child custody issues, among other family feuds. 
  • Human Rights Lawyer: These attorneys specialize in representing individuals with civil or human rights cases. Their major clients are employees whose rights have been significantly violated by employers and seeking rewards for damages caused. 
  • International lawyers: They provide advice on the rules of intergovernmental organizations, including WTO, United Nations, and more. They also represent clients in international courts and tribunals. 
  • Military Judge Advocates: J.D. degree can enable you to serve the country by becoming a military attorney. 

Nearly 4000 students graduate to enter the job market after earning their Juris Doctor degree. Most of the graduates might have passed their bar exams and sworn in as attorneys. However, due to the high competition for law-related jobs, most graduate students turn to alternative careers that don’t require a law license but need the knowledge obtained from law schools. A J.D degree also pairs well with other undergraduate majors leading to excellent career options. 

  • FBI Agent: Law enforcement agencies require skills and knowledge to analyze complex patterns and apply critical thinking to solve crime puzzles. Most of these skills are emphasized in law schools. FBI agents also need legal experience to understand some of the laws touching civil, criminal, and administrative matters. 
  • Contracts Administrator: Companies employ graduate attorneys to advise the corporations on various legal issues such as contract agreements. Company contracts are always critical and complex and need a thorough understanding of business laws. 
  • Human Resources: Human resource managers deal with various issues that have potential legal consequences for both the employers and the employees. Therefore, the company always seeks law school graduates’ services, especially those proficient with employment laws. J.D degree graduates might consider pursuing this career path. 
  • Financial Adviser: Law schools offer joint degrees which pair MBA with J.D degree programs giving law students a strong financial background. Most of these students can pursue financial careers as financial advisers. 
  • Compliance officer: The costs of litigation have rapidly increased. To this effect, companies are investing highly in compliance to help mitigate the increased number of lawsuits facing corporate organizations. Most of these compliance attorneys are in high demand in regulated industries such as insurance, banking, and health care.

What Salaries Can J.D Graduates Earn? 

The salaries earned by J.D. graduates vary considerably depending on the sector of the economy one is employed. The average wages for J.D. graduates in the private sector currently stand at $75,000. This means they earn a salary range between $50,000 to $190,000. Those practicing in the public sector make lower packages compared to their counterparts in the private sector. Attorneys in the public sector earn an average of $58,000. Their salaries range between $42,00 to $74,000. 

Summary 

Juris Doctor degree is a short professional law degree awarded by law schools in the United States. Juris Doctor degree is the highest law degree in American land. Obtaining a J.D. degree enables you to become a licensed attorney. One needs to first learn the basic knowledge of the law by obtaining an undergraduate degree. However, in some instances, one might opt to pursue a law degree after attaining other undergraduate degree programs.

The Juris Doctor differs from a master’s law degree in various ways despite the two law degrees being confused to mean the same thing. LL.M. is an advanced law degree level attained by professionals seeking to advance their undergraduate degree education. Law students enrolled for LL.M. specialize in specific law areas. On the other hand, J.D degree students are trained in all the law areas, hence learning various critical and analytical skills needed to succeed in the law profession. 

Law students are required to complete several common and core-course before obtaining their J.D. degrees. Some of the courses include constitutional laws, criminal law, property law, civil procedure, and tort law. The J.D. degree takes approximately two years to complete. Some of the benefits of earning the degree include exposure to multiple career options, development of analytical and critical skills, credibility, and many more. A J.D. degree will land you in different professional fields, law practice professions, and non-law careers such as compliance officers and financial advisors. 

Now go and enroll in a J.D. degree program.

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