What is a Juris Doctor Degree?

The Juris Doctor (JD) degree is an essential first step to the practice of law in most US jurisdictions. Yet it’s not the only path to legal practice available, nor is it sufficient on its own to allow someone to practice law in the US. In this blog, we break down precisely what a JD is and why you may choose to work towards one.

What is a JD?

A Juris Doctor (JD) degree is a professional degree that prepares its holder to enter the practice of law. It is the degree most often conferred by law schools in the US.

The course of study for a JD is typically three years. Students are exposed to the fundamental areas of US law, like contracts, torts, procedures, and criminal law. They also have opportunities to take electives in fields that interest them. Law schools also provide access to internships, clinics, competitions to practice legal skills, law review experience, and deep networks of fellow alums and professionals.

What are the prerequisites for a JD?

JD programs typically require entrants to have earned a bachelor’s degree in any subject from an accredited college or university. Many also require entrants to take the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT).

No particular major is required to enter law school. Statistically, physics and English majors tend to perform better in law school than their peers, while “pre-law” majors perform more poorly on average. Any major that trains your critical thinking and communication skills will prepare you for JD-level education.

Can I get my JD anywhere?

Most state bar organizations require a JD from an ABA-accredited law school as a prerequisite for bar membership. Bar membership is required to practice law in the United States. Make sure the American Bar Association accredits your chosen law school.

What does the JD allow me to do?

The JD itself offers few to no career opportunities. Its principal value is allowing those holding it to sit for the bar exam in one or more US states. A law license allows the person who holds it to practice law – and in many states, the only way to obtain a law license is to have a JD first.

What are the alternatives to a JD?

Some states allow people to receive a law license without earning a JD. Instead, these individuals apprentice themselves to practicing attorneys and “read law” or prepare for the bar exam independently.

“Reading law” is generally considered a more challenging avenue than completing a JD program, as the bar passage rate is lower for those who read law than it is for those who earn a JD.

Whether you’re working on your JD or considering another path toward bar membership, finding competitive opportunities in the legal field is a must. Without practical legal experience, it isn’t easy to know whether a career in the law is right for you.

For help finding the opportunities you need, get in touch with our team at Avata Partners today!