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Juris Doctor

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Juris Doctor (abbreviated J.D. or JD, from the Latin, Teacher of Law) is a first professional[1] graduate degree[2] and professional doctorate[3] in law. The degree was first awarded by Harvard in the United States in the late 19th century as a degree similar to the old European doctor of law degree.[4] Originating from the 19th century Harvard movement for the scientific study of 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 unique among doctorate programs in being a three year program in most jurisdictions (many doctorates are four years or longer). Just like other professional doctorates in the United States (M.D., D.D.S., etc.), a research dissertation or thesis is not 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.


  1. U.S. Department of Education. USNEI-Structure of U.S. Education - Graduate/Post Education Levels’’ (dead link) . Accessed May 25, 2008; College Blue Book (1999). ‘’Degrees Offered by College and Subject’’. New York: MacMillan, page 817. (the degrees offered by law schools are listed in this volume as doctorates and not first professional degrees).
  2. University of California, Berkeley. General Catalog – Graduate Education – Graduate Degrees and Certificates. Accessed May 25, 2008. (general catalog lists the graduate degrees offered at Berkeley. The list includes the J.D. and states that "The J.D. (Juris Doctor) is the basic law degree. It is a graduate degree."); University of Southern California (1995). Undergraduate and Graduate degree Programs. Accessed May 25, 2008. (includes the J.D. under its list of graduate degrees); University of Melbourne. About Use - The Melbourne JD. Accessed May 26, 2008.
  3. Association of American Universities Data Exchange. Glossary of Terms for Graduate Education (dead link) . Accessed May 26, 2008; National Science Foundation (2006). “Time to degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients,” ‘’InfoBrief, Science Resource Statistics’’ NSF 06-312, 2006, p. 7. (under "Data notes" mentions that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); San Diego County Bar Association (1969). ‘’Ethics Opinion 1969-5’’. Accessed May 26, 2008. (under “other references” discusses differences between academic and professional doctorate, and statement that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); University of Utah (2006). University of Utah – The Graduate School – Graduate Handbook. Accessed May 28, 2008. (the J.D. degree is listed under doctorate degrees); German Federal Ministry of Education. ‘’U.S. Higher Education / Evaluation of the Almanac Chronicle of Higher Education’’ (dead link) . Accessed May 26, 2008. (report by the German Federal Ministry of Education analysing the Chronicle of Higher Education from the U.S. and stating that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); Encyclopedia Britannica. (2002). ‘’Encyclopedia Britannica, 3:962:1a. (the J.D. is listed among other doctorate degrees).
  4. Hall, James Parker (1907). “American Law School Degrees,” ‘’Michigan Law Review’’ 6, No. 2, pp. 112-117. Accessed May 28, 2008.