Law Lore: What You Need to Know Before Starting Your Juris Doctorate

A Juris Doctor, also known as a Juris Doctorate, a Doctor of Jurisprudence, or a Doctor of Law, is contrary to popular belief not actually a doctorate. In Australia, it is equivalent to a master’s degree and in America is considered a standard degree required to practice law. In many countries, this means that a graduate cannot call themselves a “doctor” even though it’s in the title. The terminology indicates a person who already has a degree and is looking to shift into the world of law and a Juris Doctor course is the way to start this career change.

What is a Juris Doctor?

A Juris Doctorate is a professional doctorate which is recognised in many countries. It is a postgraduate degree that is designed for individuals who already have a degree but not necessarily in a law-related discipline. You can also study to undertake a Juris Doctor if you have a law degree from another country, but you would need to practice law where you are a legal resident. A Juris Doctor is internationally recognised in many countries including Australia, China, Japan, the Philippines, Singapore, America, and many more.

Duration of Study

When contemplating undertaking a Juris Doctorate, it’s important to understand that the course is lengthy and not to be taken lightly. It will incorporate the fundamentals of law which includes the “Priestley 11.” These subjects relate to administrative law, civil dispute resolution, company law, contracts, criminal law and procedure, ethics and professional responsibility, equity (including trusts), evidence, federal and state constitutional law, property, and torts.

From the “Priestley 11,” there are also electives to investigate and decide upon depending on what knowledge area you are looking to potentially specialise in. Some of the electives include law reform, human rights law, intellectual property, and workplace law. To fully complete a Juris Doctor, you would be looking at the possibility of studying for up to 4 years before obtaining the qualification on a part-time basis. Even undertaking a full-time basis, you would be looking at 3 years of study.

Juris Doctor vs Bachelor of Law 

The good news is that both a Juris Doctor and a Bachelor of Law will prepare you for a career in law. However, a Bachelor of Law is designed for an individual wanting to study straight out of high school, having completed year 12 or equivalent in each country. A Juris Doctor is for those individuals who already have a degree and want to pivot their career trajectory into law. Both courses will cover the essentials of the “Priestley 11.” These units are required to be successfully completed before you can apply to work in a legal profession or practice. As you would have already completed a degree in another field, it is generally expected that your work in a Juris Doctor will be of a higher standard. It’s also more common for students to study a Juris Doctor online as it’s more likely the individual will be already working full-time elsewhere and need to financially support themselves whilst completing the study. Unlike a Bachelor of Law, where students are often straight out of high school and likely to still live at home and be able to study face-to-face full time.

What comes next?

That depends on where you are studying and that country’s requirements. In America or Canada, you can complete the Juris Doctor and then take the bar and start practicing law. However, in Australia, you would be required either to complete 80 days of supervised Practical Legal Training (PLT) or complete further study with a Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice. Once this is completed then you must be admitted to the Supreme Court of Australia in your State or Territory, and you must have a practicing certificate issued in an Australian jurisdiction. In Australia, as in many other countries, there are many different territories and jurisdiction areas. This is why it’s hugely important to research where you are wanting to practice and ensure you have met and completed all requirements for that area.

What Can I Do with a Juris Doctor? 

Completing a Juris Doctor can open a world of possibilities for you in the legal field and even in other industries as well. Some potential pathways may include:

Practice law 

Completing the Juris Doctor will satisfy the academic requirements needed for admission to practice law in areas such as a lawyer, solicitor, barrister, or even eventually down the line as a judge. When practicing in law it becomes common to end up specialising, which is where when studying further electives comes into play to get additional knowledge.

Community advocate

Moving into a more public-based role working towards change within the community or social justice. Working in roles to strategically influence change by focusing on representing the community’s rights and needs.

Corporate roles

Focussing in on an organisation’s legal framework, including contracts and negotiations, to ensure all within the company receive their fair share and all their rights are met. This could also incorporate areas such as mergers and acquisitions.

Advantages of  Juris Doctor

The biggest advantage of a Juris Doctor is the exciting opportunities it can open for you, and also the ability to complement your already existing qualification/s and make you a stronger candidate for all sorts of roles in different industries, not just law related. An example of this is if before studying Juris Doctor you had already completed a bachelor’s degree in human resources (HR). Together these two courses could take you to a career in legal recruitment or corporate law. Along with learning life skills such as writing, negotiation, analysing information, and different ways to undertake research.

 Undertaking a Juris Doctor can not only open new and exciting opportunities for you, but it can also lead to a variety of different employment options and pathways you may have never previously considered or thought possible for yourself. A Juris Doctor is something you can start at any time in your life, so what are you waiting for? With new and lucrative career pathways awaiting you, enrol now and start working on the rest of your life.