Canadian law schools convert LL.B. to J.D.

Canadian law schools convert the LL.B. degree to J.D. degrees

Copyright © 2009, John Richardson. All Rights Reserved.

Those of you who are considering law school in North America must understand what North American law degrees are, how they relate to the process of becoming a lawyer, and the difference between an ABA (American Bar Association) approved J.D. and a non-ABA approved J.D. Furthermore, you should understand how the joint LL.B./J.D. programs work at Canadian law schools (For an article on LL.B./J.D. programs in  general see: http://www.prep.com/LW.pdf)

This article should be seen as  an update to an article I wrote a number of years about “How To Become A Lawyer In North America” which appears here:

http://www.trininetwork.com/news/lawart3.htm

North American Common Law Degrees

All of the U.S. states and Canadian provinces (with the exception of Louisiana and Quebec) are based on the “common law” tradition. Quebec and Louisiana are based on the “civil” law tradition. This article will focus on the common law degrees. In the United States law schools award the J.D. (Juris Doctor). Canada is part of the British Commonwealth. Canadian law schools, until recently, have awarded the LL.B. (Bachelor of Laws).

More On The LLB.? – The Role It Plays Towards Becoming A Lawyer

The LL.B. degree is a designation which means “Bachelor of Laws”. It is the basic law degree which has been offered by law schools in the British Commonwealth. It is by definition an undergraduate degree. In the U.K., it is common for students to study law as an undergraduate subject. Canada has 15 law schools which traditionally offered the LL.B. degree. After earning this degree, students would use this degree as the academic qualification to complete the licensing process to become a lawyer in a Canadian province.

More On The J.D. – The Role It Plays Towards Becoming A Lawyer

The J.D. degree is a designation which means “Juris Doctor”. An interesting article  about the origins of the J.D. may be found here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juris_Doctor#Canada

It is important to recognize:

  1. In the U.S., the  J.D. is a graduate degree. People attend law school in the U.S. after having earned a bachelors degree; and
  2. The J.D. provides the academic qualification to become admitted to the bar in the U.S.
  3. There is a difference between a J.D. that is “ABA approved” and a J.D. that is not “ABA” approved. An “ABA Approved” J.D. will allow one to take the bar exam in every U.S. state. A J.D. that is NOT “ABA Approved” will NOT allow one to take the bar exam in every state, but will normally allow one to take the bar exam in some U.S. states.

Canadian law schools and the J.D. degree – Joint LLB./J.D. Programs

Over the last decade, three Canadian law schools (Windsor, Ottawa and Osgoode) have partnered with U.S. law schools to offer a joint LL.B./J.D. program. In each case, the students would earn two degrees:

–         a Canadian LL.B. (or J.D.) degree

–         a U.S. J.D. degree which is ABA approved.

For an earlier article I wrote on these degrees see:

http://osgoode.yorku.ca/media2.nsf/5457ed39bc56dbfd852571e900728656/e108170e7921e81285256f95005c0dd1!OpenDocument

The key point is that graduates of Canadian LL.B./J.D. programs earn a J.D. from a U.S. law school  that is ABA approved.

These degrees continue to be popular.

A number of Canadian law schools are now changing their LL.B. degrees to J.D. degrees.  This change should be seen as an “LL.B.” with a name change.  (By the fall of 2010 all 6 Ontario law schools have changed their  degree to the J.D.  degree.)

Canadian law schools – converting the LL.B. to the J.D.

When a Canadian law school changes from the LL.B. to the J.D. (which they all are or will), it should be seen as  an “LL.B. with a name change. A J.D. from a Canadian law school is not an “ABA Approved” J.D. In other words a Canadian J.D. degree will not allow one to take the bar exam in every U.S. state. (There are some U.S. states which will allow Canadian law graduates – whether an LL.B. or J.D.  – to take their bar exam.)

Three points are important:

1. Again to be clear – a J.D. from a Canadian law school is NOT ABA approved and therefore will not allow one to take the bar exam in every U.S.  state.

2. Graduates of Canadian LLB./J.D. programs will have earned an ABA approved J.D. from an American law school in addition to a Canadian law degree from a Canadian law school. Because they will have an ABA approved J.D. from an American law school, they will be able to take the bar exam in any and every U.S. state.

3. A Canadian law school that has an LL.B./J.D. program (I am thinking specifically of Osgoode) who then changes  their LL.B to a J.D. will be in exactly the same position as in “2” above. Specifically graduates will earn a non-ABA approved J.D. from Osgoode and an ABA approved J.D. from NYU. (Note that in 2010 the Osgoode and NYU joint degree program was discontinued. Osgoode  now  has  a joint J.D./LL.M. program  with NYU.)

Why are Canadian law schools converting the J.D.?

It is the view of many Canadian law schools that the J.D. is better regarded internationally. Although I am unwilling to express an opinion on that, I will refer you to the following articles:

http://www.globecampus.ca/in-the-news/globecampusreport/why-change-to-a-jd-degree/

Queen’s – Rationale for change

http://law.queensu.ca/students/lss/jdProposal.html
Canadian Lawyer reports that Dalhousie is also considering the change from LL.B. to J.D.

What Canadian law schools have converted to the J.D.?

At the present time the following schools have converted their LLB. degrees to J.D. degrees:

–         University of Toronto

–         Queen’s

–         Osgoode

(Since  this article was originally written, Western, Windsor  and Ottawa and converted to the J.D.)

–         University of British Columbia

Those considering the transition include:

–         University of Western Ontario (now converted to the J.D.)

–         University of Calgary

–         Dahousie

McGill – change under consideration:
http://mcgilljd.blogspot.com/

Note also the following Facebook group which makes it clear that the University of Calgary is also making the switch to the J.D.

Osgoode – change under consideration:
http://osgoode.yorku.ca/media2.nsf/58912001c091cdc8852569300055bbf9/6fb85805a130278385257401006bbab2!OpenDocument

University of British Columbia – Change made:
http://www.law.ubc.ca/news/2008/sept/09_02_2008_jd.html

Western – change made:
http://www.law.uwo.ca/News/Sept_08/JD.html

My prediction – it won’t be long until the LL.B. has become extinct in Canada.

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12 thoughts on “Canadian law schools convert LL.B. to J.D.

  1. Heather

    Is it just me or are there contradictions within this section please? Thank you.

    Canadian law schools – converting the LL.B. to the J.D.

    When a Canadian law school changes from the LL.B. to the J.D. (which they all are or will), it should be seen as an “LL.B. with a name change. A J.D. from a Canadian law school is not an “ABA Approved” J.D. In other words a Canadian J.D. degree will not allow one to take the bar exam in any U.S. state. (There are some U.S. states which will allow Canadian law graduates – whether an LL.B. or J.D.) – to take their bar exam.)

    Hence, graduates of Canadian LLB./J.D. programs will have earned an ABA approved J.D. in addition to a Canadian law degree.

  2. admin

    Hello Heather:

    Thanks very much for your comment. I see why you think the paragrah may be confusing. I have rewritten the paragraph to clarify.

    Hope this is an improvemment and is now clear.

    The key point is that LL.B./J.D. programs allow one to earn two law degrees from both an American law school and a Candadian law school.

    John Richardson
    http://www.lawschoolbound.org

  3. Stephen Hicks

    Almost all Canadian law schools have changed, or are in the process of changing, or are seriously contemplating a change to the JD from the factual mistake of history where in England one could go directly to law school from high school (similar to the MB for medical schools in England instead of the MD). In Canada, and in most of the Common Law countries, a college degree or its equivalent is required before entry to law school. As such, a second bachelors (i.e., LLB) is not the same as a post-bachelors law program. Additionally, there is substantially greater study (about twice as many credits) in law school than a masters program. Therefore, a professional doctorate is more appropriate. Lastly, the very first doctorate (nearly 1000 years ago) was in law. Lawyers have a rightful place to claim a doctorate, both practically and historically.

  4. admin

    Thanks for your interesting comment. Do you know where one would have earned that first doctorate in law?

    Admin

  5. Joy

    In Ontario, you are required to do at least 2 years of undergraduate study to apply for law school. Other than Quebec, I think the other provinces have a similar system. Law is also considered a graduate program, you just get a ‘bachelor of laws’….it doesn’t make full sense, except it follows the bachelor, master, doctor system…

  6. admin

    Joy :

    In Ontario, you are required to do at least 2 years of undergraduate study to apply for law school. Other than Quebec, I think the other provinces have a similar system. Law is also considered a graduate program, you just get a ‘bachelor of laws’….it doesn’t make full sense, except it follows the bachelor, master, doctor system…

    Law is for all intents and purposes a graduate program. This is part of the reason why many Canadian law schools are changing their LL.B. to the J.D. Remember that it is an “LL.B. with a name change.” This means that it is treated the same way for the purpose of entering various provincial lawyer licensing programs in Canada.

  7. Matt

    It is not entirely accurate to say that law school (in Canada or the United States) is a graduate program. It is the first degree in law, whether you call it an LL.B. or a J.D. The first graduate degree in law is the LL.M. The doctorate degree in law is the LL.D. or Ph.D. Similarly, the M.D. degree in medicine and the D.D.S. degree in dentistry are undergraduate degrees. I’m not saying that I don’t support the change in designation, but I just think we should be clear about what a “doctorate” degree is.

  8. admin

    Matt :

    It is not entirely accurate to say that law school (in Canada or the United States) is a graduate program. It is the first degree in law, whether you call it an LL.B. or a J.D. The first graduate degree in law is the LL.M. The doctorate degree in law is the LL.D. or Ph.D. Similarly, the M.D. degree in medicine and the D.D.S. degree in dentistry are undergraduate degrees. I’m not saying that I don’t support the change in designation, but I just think we should be clear about what a “doctorate” degree is.

    Thanks Matt – Nice comment.

    We are talking about the difference between a graduate degree in a specific area as opposed to a degree that is normally undertaken after having received a bachelors degree. Almost all people who go to law school have a bachelors degree (the exceptions are very small). For most a J.D. is a degree undertaken by university graduates. Hence, my saying for “all intents and purposes” a graduate program. But, you are right, from the perspective of the law degree – both the LL.B. and J.D. are the entry level academic qualifications needed to become a licensed lawyer.

    It is interesting that an LL.M. (masters in law) does NOT (in most places) satisfy the academic requirements to become a licensed lawyer. Although an LL.M. is a graduate degree in law, unlike most graduate degrees, the LL.M. does NOT require an undergraduate degree in law. In other words, it is possible to get an LL.M. without having either an LL.B. or J.D. Furthermore, it is often easier to be admitted to LL.M. programs than to J.D. or LL.B. programs.

    There is a lot of interest on this topic. Here is a very interesting link that (assuming it is accurate) provides a bit of the history of the J.D.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juris_Doctor

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juris_Doctor#Canada

    John Richardson
    http://www.lawschoolbound.org

  9. Rachel

    If you cannot get in straight from high school, then it is not an undergraduate degree. And it is certainly not equivalent to any other undergraduate degree.

    Interesting that the universities often describe the LL.B. as an undergraduate degree, yet not only do you pretty much have to have an undergraduate degree to enter law school, but the finance department of the university I attended would not grant me the concession on fees that I was entitled to for an undergraduate degree — they told me that it was not an undergraduate degree, so did not qualify.

    An undergraduate degree in law is a BA with a major in law, not an LL.B. This distinction is particularly important for anyone who chooses not to practice law. HR departments frequently consider it equal to any other bachelors because of this misleading designation.

  10. Michael Laurie, BA. LL.B

    Being retired and 75 years of age, I have decided to convert my LLB degree from UBC to JD. I think it ought to have been possible so soon as students no longer needed “51% graduating from High School with a proper family background, and a briefcase.” As a former RCMP officer who came down from policing via canoe in summer and dog team in winter in the High Arctic towns of Aklavik and Tuktoyaktuk, to be admitted to the degree of BA (History)in 1970 and the LL.B, from UBC in l973, our class at UBC took the LSAT a few years after it came to be mandatory. I articled with the Newfoundland Justice Department and went into private practice to retirement after by choice. Meanwhile, my English-born wife though much younger, opts to continue her medical practice never wanting to retire at all. So much for my dreams of being a snow bird.

    It warms the wee part of my Celtic heart as well (though ethnically I am mostly English due mainly to the distaff side of my family) to see another “Mother Country” tradition forgotten enabling Canadian society to seek and to feel full independence along every facet of the political continuum by non-violent evolution and the ballot box. The same Canadian independence squares with the USA as well.

    It angered me to see the foregoing comments that one could not practice in the USA on a Canadian JD degree when there was no mention that neither can the JD from US colleges, be an academic prerequisite to entry into articles and clerkship in any province. Was the author another ugly American, God bless him? Who needs the ABA or to immigrate stateside? I tried it after Law-School graduation with a insurance company but southern California was not for me. So, I headed to the Far East of Canada.

    I served Canada overseas in the RCAF and in the scarlet uniform of the RCMP and I would never consider being a US citizen because I feel as my dad did when he left Boston, MA in the late twenties, Canada despite our differences is the most civilized country in the world and one where most people opt to live under the Rule of Law. Our standard-of-living thanks to oil perhaps, is second to none.

  11. William Walters

    The author writes “any state” in several instances in which he probably means “every state.”

    For example: “In other words a Canadian J.D. degree will not allow one to take the bar exam in any U.S. state. (There are some U.S. states which will allow Canadian law graduates – whether an LL.B. or J.D.) – to take their bar exam.)” It should be “…a Canadian J.D. will not allow one to take the bar exam in every U.S. state.” That is, there are some states in which Canadian J.D. graduates can take the bar exam, and other states in which they cannot.

  12. Shawn K.

    Small thing, Louisiana and Quebec aren’t fully based on civil law systems. They are mixed legal systems, meaning that they’re BOTH common law and civil law based.

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