What is a Juris Doctor (JD) Degree?

Earning a Juris Doctor (JD) degree is one of the last stops to becoming a lawyer in the United States. In nearly all states, a person will need a JD degree to be able to sit for that state’s bar exam, and in nearly all cases it must also be from a law school accredited by the American Bar Association (ABA).

How Might I Earn a JD Degree?

The first step toward earning a JD degree is to gain admission to an ABA accredited law school. There are more than 200 of them in the United States. Admission requirements are different from law school to law school. Maybe an applicant will be denied admission to one law school, but two others might accept him or her. That’s why applicants shouldn’t restrict themselves geographically. Typical admission requirements follow:

  • Get a Degree: Applicants are required to have a bachelor’s degree with a superior or respectable grade point average from an accredited college or university.
  • Take the LSAT: Candidates for admission to any ABA accredited law school are required to have taken and received satisfactory scores on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT). The test is administered nationally several times a year. Prep classes on how to take the LSAT are available. As candidates are competing for admission on a national basis, they’re giving themselves the best chance at obtaining satisfactory LSAT scores by taking a prep course. Note that some accredited law schools allow Graduate Record Examination GRE scores to be submitted in lieu of LSAT scores.
  • Law School Applications: Choose the law schools that you are interested in, and complete the application process. In support of your applications, two or three letters of recommendation speaking to the applicant’s work ethic and academic ability should accompany each application. Applicants must also submit their own personal statement.

Core Courses for JD Programs

In order to be accredited with the ABA, law schools must require their students to take and achieve satisfactory grades in certain required subjects. For example, first-year and second-year law students are required to study the following subjects:

  • Contracts.
  • Torts.
  • Criminal law.
  • Real property.
  • Evidence.
  • Constitutional law.
  • Commercial transactions.
  • Legal research and writing.

The availability of elective classes from law school to law school might differ, especially based on the school’s size and location.

Expected Proficiency of Accredited Law School Grads

All graduates of ABA accredited law schools are expected to be able to show competency in the following:

  • Their knowledge and understanding of substantive and procedural law.
  • Their legal analysis and reasoning, research, problem solving abilities, along with legal communication abilities.
  • Be able to exercise the appropriate character and fitness for the professional responsibilities of a lawyer.
  • Possess the professional skills necessary for the competency and ethical fitness of a lawyer in the professional environment.

While in law school, students are expected to participate in internal and external professional activities for purposes of refining their abilities in the actual practice of law. An aspiring JD candidate can take his or her first steps in earning their degree by contacting any ABA accredited law school that they might be interested in graduating from.