LL.B. v. J.D

Law Faculty Council has a established a committee to consider whether UNB Law should change the present LL.B. degree to a J.D. degree.  For 2010-11, the Committee consists of Matt McEwen (LL.B. I); Johnathan Earle (LL.B. II); Travis Wadham (LL.B. II); Peter Hickey (LL.B. III); Clea Ward (Director, Career Development & External Relations); and Professors Carl MacArthur and John P. McEvoy.

The Committee is seeking feedback from UNB Law graduates and current students.  You may post your comments on our Facebook fan page or you may send an email to Clea Ward at cward@unb.ca.  In your comments/email, please state whether you are a current student or graduate.  The deadline for submitting comments/feedback is Friday, November 12th, 2010.


UNB Law has offered the LL.B. degree since 1969 when it switched from the B.C.L. (Bachelor of Civil Law). LL.B. stands for Legum Baccalaureus, the Latin expression for Bachelor of Laws. Legum is the Latin plural of law and refers to the two law systems taught in late medieval times at Oxford and Cambridge: civil law (Roman law) and canon law (church law).  The LL.B. is an undergraduate or first degree in the United Kingdom and was adopted as such in various Commonwealth countries. In Canada, however, the study of law has normally been undertaken after completion of a first undergraduate degree. It is this point which particularly motivated the Faculty of Law at the University of Toronto to introduce the change to a J.D. degree in 2001.   The J.D. or Juris Doctor literally means "doctor of jurisprudence" though the holder of a J.D. degree is not entitled to refer to her/himself as "Doctor". Harvard University, which had started awarding the LL.B. degree to identify its law programme with those at Oxford and Cambridge, originated the use of the J.D. designation. In 1997, Harvard dropped the LL.B. degree and since then has awarded the J.D. degree exclusively as its professional degree in law. On its website, Harvard Law School describes its J.D. programme as: "a three-year program that first gives students the intellectual foundations for legal study, and then gives them the opportunity to focus their studies on areas of particular interest through advanced classes, clinics, and writing projects."  The J.D. is the degree awarded upon completion of the program of studies at U.S. law schools.

As mentioned, the University of Toronto changed its degree to a J.D. in 2001. This change was cosmetic as the substance of the LL.B. programme did not change along with the name. U of T rationalized the name change as a means to provide a more level playing field for its graduates competing for positions in the international legal market, particularly in the U.S. Anecdotal evidence suggested that, in certain circumstances, holders of a Canadian LL.B. degree were considered as holding a U.K.-style first degree rather than a truly second or professional degree.

Since the change in degree name by U of T, the J.D. has either been adopted or is in the course of adoption at all Canadian common law faculties except Moncton and McGill. Thus, the faculties at Dalhousie, Ottawa (Common), Queen's, Toronto, York (Osgoode), Western Ontario, Windsor, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Calgary, UBC, and Victoria have either implemented the name change or are moving in that direction.

Common reasons argued against adopting the J.D. designation 

- it is an Americanism
- it is cosmetic rather than substantive  (if it ain't broken why fix it?)
- the LL.B. has become the traditional degree at UNB Law  

Common reasons in favour of adopting the J.D. designation

- the tide is already out as most Canadian law faculties have made the change
- use of the J.D. does not impact on the Canadian and international course content of the present LL.B. programme
- avoids confusion in the international legal market
- better reflects the reality of law as a second degree program undertaken after a first degree
- years from now, the J.D. will be recognized as the norm and LL.B. holders may have to explain the meaning and significance of their degree

 Please share your thoughts with the Committee.