JD v Barrister degree


Hullo all -

Essentially, I am curious as to how US institutions view the UK professional qualification (Barrister-at-Law degree) vis-a-vis its equivalent, the JD, particularly as regards LLM admissions.

Though European, I have taken quite an 'American' path into the legal profession, in that my undergraduate was a liberal arts BA, followed by an MPhil (in English literature; what a waste of time!), and most recently by what, in the UK and Ireland, is the requisite qualification for practicing at the bar, ie the BL.

This latter qualification consists, for students who did not study law (by way of an LLB) at undergraduate level, of a conversion course, and a professional component, typically over two years, which would seem similar to (if perhaps slightly less glamorous than?) the JD.

I am now considering applying to the US for an LLM (in public international law/human rights). I had college, university and government scholarships at Cambridge, so would feel reasonably confident in applying to a postgraduate programme in an arts subject in the US.

I'm concerned, however, that my poor old BL won't come up to the mark in terms of LLM applications. In particular, I chose to do my BL part time in the evenings, so that I could take up a job with an IGO, which perhaps makes it look a bit cheap and tawdry. Bloody hard work though, I can assure you!

Anyway, I would be very interested to hear your views, encouraging or otherwise -

Regards -

Fionn
Hullo all -

Essentially, I am curious as to how US institutions view the UK professional qualification (Barrister-at-Law degree) vis-a-vis its equivalent, the JD, particularly as regards LLM admissions.

Though European, I have taken quite an 'American' path into the legal profession, in that my undergraduate was a liberal arts BA, followed by an MPhil (in English literature; what a waste of time!), and most recently by what, in the UK and Ireland, is the requisite qualification for practicing at the bar, ie the BL.

This latter qualification consists, for students who did not study law (by way of an LLB) at undergraduate level, of a conversion course, and a professional component, typically over two years, which would seem similar to (if perhaps slightly less glamorous than?) the JD.

I am now considering applying to the US for an LLM (in public international law/human rights). I had college, university and government scholarships at Cambridge, so would feel reasonably confident in applying to a postgraduate programme in an arts subject in the US.

I'm concerned, however, that my poor old BL won't come up to the mark in terms of LLM applications. In particular, I chose to do my BL part time in the evenings, so that I could take up a job with an IGO, which perhaps makes it look a bit cheap and tawdry. Bloody hard work though, I can assure you!

Anyway, I would be very interested to hear your views, encouraging or otherwise -

Regards -

Fionn
quote
jsd
Being a barrister (that is to say, being called to the Bar from one of the four inns) is not analagous to a JD (or even a BL). Technically not a degree, it is closer to clearing a bar exam in one or more states. Even so, there are differences as a barrister has certain restrictions on practice in chambers, etc. which JDs entitled to practice do not have.

Being a barrister is undoutbtedly an accomplishment but is in no way inferior to being a solicitor for example, or a professionally qualified lecturer, etc.

How exactly does being a barrister come into your plans ?
Being a barrister (that is to say, being called to the Bar from one of the four inns) is not analagous to a JD (or even a BL). Technically not a degree, it is closer to clearing a bar exam in one or more states. Even so, there are differences as a barrister has certain restrictions on practice in chambers, etc. which JDs entitled to practice do not have.

Being a barrister is undoutbtedly an accomplishment but is in no way inferior to being a solicitor for example, or a professionally qualified lecturer, etc.

How exactly does being a barrister come into your plans ?

quote
Hi JSD -

Thanks for your insights -

Am amazed at people's generosity and patience in replying to what are probably quite tedious questions!

I think that your reply throws up some of the 'lost-in-translation' issues in relation to equivalence between professional qualifications either side of the Atlantic. As Shaw (or Wilde, or whoever you're having yourself) said, we are indeed divided by a common language :)

I should have made it clear that I qualified in Ireland, where the BL is, in fact, a degree (gradum advocatum apud judices), rather than a mere indication of having passed the requisite bar exams (though this is a necessary component).

In saying this, I in no way wish to suggest equivalence with the JD, which I understand to be a form of professional doctorate, technically speaking, and more closely (though again, not exactly) analogous to the undergraduate LLB in the UK and Ireland. The barrister degree consists of just one year of full time education (the necessary conversion courses having been successfully completed by non-law graduates), which is obviously significantly less rigorous than the 3 year JD.

Incidentally, the chamber system is explicitly prohibited in Ireland, and there are no consequent restrictions as regards areas of practice (apart from sheer luck in obtaining briefs).

As far as my plan are concerned, when I began working in the NGO/IGO sector, it became clear that some sort of legal literacy would be required, and the barrister qualification seemed the best way to acquire this. My intention now is either to practice domestically, or focus in on public international law jobs in the European context. Either way, I reckon an LLM would be pretty valuable -
Hi JSD -

Thanks for your insights -

Am amazed at people's generosity and patience in replying to what are probably quite tedious questions!

I think that your reply throws up some of the 'lost-in-translation' issues in relation to equivalence between professional qualifications either side of the Atlantic. As Shaw (or Wilde, or whoever you're having yourself) said, we are indeed divided by a common language :)

I should have made it clear that I qualified in Ireland, where the BL is, in fact, a degree (gradum advocatum apud judices), rather than a mere indication of having passed the requisite bar exams (though this is a necessary component).

In saying this, I in no way wish to suggest equivalence with the JD, which I understand to be a form of professional doctorate, technically speaking, and more closely (though again, not exactly) analogous to the undergraduate LLB in the UK and Ireland. The barrister degree consists of just one year of full time education (the necessary conversion courses having been successfully completed by non-law graduates), which is obviously significantly less rigorous than the 3 year JD.

Incidentally, the chamber system is explicitly prohibited in Ireland, and there are no consequent restrictions as regards areas of practice (apart from sheer luck in obtaining briefs).

As far as my plan are concerned, when I began working in the NGO/IGO sector, it became clear that some sort of legal literacy would be required, and the barrister qualification seemed the best way to acquire this. My intention now is either to practice domestically, or focus in on public international law jobs in the European context. Either way, I reckon an LLM would be pretty valuable -
quote
amt233
Your background sounds pretty impressive to this JD-holder. I think there must be some awareness amongst US admissions offices that it is extremely competitive to qualify as a barrister (my knowledge of this mostly pertains to the English, so I hope it is not too big a leap to make inferences about Ireland). Assuming your BL meets the formal educational requirements for particular programs (I'd think it would, but you'll need to consult them), I do not think universities will view it as a deficit versus other types of law degrees.

More important than the flavor of one's law degree, I think an applicant needs to show that she has a clear idea of how she thinks she can benefit from LLM study. It seems pretty obvious that you have given this course of action serious thought and that it makes sense for you given your background and career goals. Be sure that you emphasize this in your applications! -- it will really help you stand out.

As an aside, if you wish to work in your home country or in Europe, wouldn't it make more sense to apply to programs in Britain and Europe? I do not claim to know very much about PIL, but I would think a lot of the best programs for European law would be at European universities -- frankly, from what (little) I understand, most of the top programs for PIL generally are in Europe or the UK. Also, attending an LLM in these areas will give you the chance to network with people who have experience working in European institutions (which I believe is every bit as valuable as what you learn in your classes). Just curious....

Good luck!
Your background sounds pretty impressive to this JD-holder. I think there must be some awareness amongst US admissions offices that it is extremely competitive to qualify as a barrister (my knowledge of this mostly pertains to the English, so I hope it is not too big a leap to make inferences about Ireland). Assuming your BL meets the formal educational requirements for particular programs (I'd think it would, but you'll need to consult them), I do not think universities will view it as a deficit versus other types of law degrees.

More important than the flavor of one's law degree, I think an applicant needs to show that she has a clear idea of how she thinks she can benefit from LLM study. It seems pretty obvious that you have given this course of action serious thought and that it makes sense for you given your background and career goals. Be sure that you emphasize this in your applications! -- it will really help you stand out.

As an aside, if you wish to work in your home country or in Europe, wouldn't it make more sense to apply to programs in Britain and Europe? I do not claim to know very much about PIL, but I would think a lot of the best programs for European law would be at European universities -- frankly, from what (little) I understand, most of the top programs for PIL generally are in Europe or the UK. Also, attending an LLM in these areas will give you the chance to network with people who have experience working in European institutions (which I believe is every bit as valuable as what you learn in your classes). Just curious....

Good luck!
quote
jsd
Ah OK. LLM Programs in the US usually require an undergrad law degree (JD/ BCL/LLB) but do provide exceptions in cases - although those are few. I'd say that your lack of any first law degree (apart from the BL) cannot be presumed to be a disadvantage in determining whether you will be offered a place in an LLM. Do remember that in cases such as these, other factors such as quality of experience and academic awards assume importance.
Ah OK. LLM Programs in the US usually require an undergrad law degree (JD/ BCL/LLB) but do provide exceptions in cases - although those are few. I'd say that your lack of any first law degree (apart from the BL) cannot be presumed to be a disadvantage in determining whether you will be offered a place in an LLM. Do remember that in cases such as these, other factors such as quality of experience and academic awards assume importance.

quote
Thanks guys, they're very helpful responses -

To answer your question, amt233, I do think that a European university is the more sensible option, academically and professionally. The close association, for example, between Leiden and the ICC in the Hague is very attractive (as are the fees).

My interest in the US was sparked by a professor who suggested that I would be a good candidate for a Fulbright on the basis of my Cambridge record (Fulbright is very much less competitive for students on the non-US side of the exchange, particularly in a small country like Ireland which has a large inward flow of US awardees).

My feeling was that, irrespective of getting an award (obviously in itself nothing like a foregone conclusion) I would be unlikely to be admitted to an LLM in the absence of an undergraduate degree in law, which your responses have confirmed.

Thanks for your interest!
Thanks guys, they're very helpful responses -

To answer your question, amt233, I do think that a European university is the more sensible option, academically and professionally. The close association, for example, between Leiden and the ICC in the Hague is very attractive (as are the fees).

My interest in the US was sparked by a professor who suggested that I would be a good candidate for a Fulbright on the basis of my Cambridge record (Fulbright is very much less competitive for students on the non-US side of the exchange, particularly in a small country like Ireland which has a large inward flow of US awardees).

My feeling was that, irrespective of getting an award (obviously in itself nothing like a foregone conclusion) I would be unlikely to be admitted to an LLM in the absence of an undergraduate degree in law, which your responses have confirmed.

Thanks for your interest!
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