Bachelor of Laws

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Outline and origin

The degree of Bachelor of Laws is the principal academic degree in law in most common law countries. It is abbreviated LL.B. LL. is abbreviation for the plural legum (of laws); thus LL.B. stands for Legum Baccalaureus in Latin. In the United States it is sometimes called "Bachelor of Legal Letters" to account for the double L. An explanation for using the plural form is rooted in history. Historically, law students used to study both ecclesiastical law and common law. Today, this is much less common. However, a few institutions, such as Cardiff University's Department of Canon (Ecclesiastical) Law, continue to offer alternatives to the common law.

Qualifying law degrees

The term qualifying law degree refers to a degree from a university or college that is accredited by the relevant bar or law society and in which a passing grade has been achieved in designated core modules of the degree. The specific modules required by the bar association may vary and different naming conventions can be used. A typical qualifying law degree consists of six modules drawn from the following subject areas:

  • Public Law (Constitutional/Administrative)
  • European Union Law
  • Law of Evidence
  • Criminal Law
  • Law of Obligations (Contract, Restitution & Tort)
  • Property Law (Real Property)
  • Trusts and Equity

Becoming a lawyer

Upon completion of the degree, graduates are generally qualified to apply for membership of the bar or law society. The membership eligibility bestowed may be subject to completion of professional exams or an apprenticeship. Accordingly, a student may have to gain a further qualification at postgraduate level, for example the LPC or BVC in England & Wales, or the PCLL in Hong Kong.

International situation

Alternative titles and formats

In the United States the LL.B. became a three year graduate degree taken after completion of a four-year undergraduate degree. The LL.B. has now been widely replaced in the United States, by the Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree although little has changed in its form and structure.

In most of the Commonwealth, the LL.B. remains the qualifying degree for the practice of law, though some universities award the degree of Bachelor of Civil Law (B.C.L.). At Oxford and Cambridge, the principal law degree is a B.A., in Jurisprudence and Law respectively; the B.C.L. and LL.B. (recently renamed LL.M.) are postgraduate degrees. Some universities in the United Kingdom and New Zealand offer variations of this degree, such as LL.B.(Europe), which generally take four years to complete and include a wider range of topics as well as some degree of specialisation.

Eligibility to foreign jurisdictions

Foreign law graduates wishing to attain admission to the bar in the United States may find their qualifying LL.B law degree fulfils core admission requirements and allows them to take the bar exam, directly. This applies in NY State, for example. However, the procedures (http://www.abanet.org/legaled/miscellaneous/faqs.html#accreditation) vary between states and interested applicants should seek specific advice.

Alternatives

There are also one-year conversion courses available for non-law graduates, available as an alternative to the full-length LL.B degree course. One such example of a conversion course in England & Wales is the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law).

See also

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