The Bachelor of Laws (LL.B. or B.L) ((ラテン語:Legum Baccalaureus)) is an undergraduate degree in law (or a first professional degree in law, depending on jurisdiction) originating in England and offered in most common law jurisdictions.〔Professional Objectives in Legal Education: American Trends and English Comparisons,” Pressing Problems in the Law, Volume 2: What are Law Schools For?, Oxford University Press, 1996.〕 In English-speaking Canada it is sometimes referred to as a post-graduate degree because previous university education is usually required for admission. The "LL." of the abbreviation for the degree is from the genitive plural ''legum'' (of ''lex'', law). Creating an abbreviation for a plural, especially from Latin, is often done by doubling the first letter (e.g., "pp" for "pages"), thus "LL.B." stands for ''Legum Baccalaureus'' in Latin. It is sometimes erroneously called "Bachelor of Legal Letters" to account for the double "L".
The United States no longer offers the LL.B. though some universities introduced a Bachelor of Science degree in Legal Studies that includes Constitutional Law, Tort Law, and Criminal Law within the curriculum. The Master of Science of Laws (MSL) is also offered in some universities accredited by the American Bar Association. While the LL.B. was conferred until 1971 at Yale University, since that time, all universities in the United States have awarded the professional doctorate J.D.,〔. National Science Foundation (2006). “(Time to Degree of U.S. Research Doctorate Recipients ),” ‘'InfoBrief, Science Resource Statistics'' NSF 06-312, 2006, p. 7. (under "Data notes" mentions that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); San Diego County Bar Association (1969). (‘'Ethics Opinion 1969-5'' ). Accessed May 26, 2008. (under “other references” discusses differences between academic and professional doctorate, and statement that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); University of Utah (2006). (University of Utah – The Graduate School – Graduate Handbook ). Accessed May 28, 2008. (the J.D. degree is listed under doctorate degrees); (report by the German Federal Ministry of Education analysing the Chronicle of Higher Education from the U.S. and stating that the J.D. is a professional doctorate); Encyclopædia Britannica. (2002). ''Encyclopædia Britannica'', 3:962:1a. (the J.D. is listed among other doctorate degrees).〕 which then became the generally standardized degree in most states for the necessary bar exam prior to practice of law.〔Schoenfeld, Marcus, "J.D. or LL.B. as the Basic Law Degree," Cleveland-Marshall Law Review, Vol. 4, 1963, pp. 573-579, quoted in Joanna Lombard, (LL.B. to J.D. and the Professional Degree in Architecture ), Proceedings of the 85th ACSA Annual Meeting, Architecture: Material and Imagined and Technology Conference, 1997. pp. 585-591.〕 Many law schools converted their basic law degree programs from LL.B. to J.D. in the 1960s, and permitted prior LL.B. graduates to retroactively receive the new doctorate degrees by returning their LL.B. in exchange for a J.D. degree.〔 (Notes that by 1969 many law schools were phasing out the LL.B. in favor of the J.D.)〕 Yale graduates who received LL.B. degrees prior to 1971 were similarly permitted to change their degree to a J.D., although many did not take the option, retaining their LL.B. degrees.〔
Historically, in Canada, Bachelor of Laws was the name of the first degree in common law, but is also the name of the first degree in Quebec civil law awarded by a number of Quebec universities. Canadian common-law LL.B. programs were, in practice, second-entry professional degrees, meaning that the vast majority of those admitted to an LL.B. programme were already holders of one or more degrees, or, at a minimum (with very few exceptions), have completed two years of study in a first-entry, undergraduate degree in another discipline. Today in Canada the predominant first degree in common law is the Juris Doctor degree having replaced the LL.B.
Bachelor of Laws is also the name of the first degree in Scots law and South African law (both being pluralistic legal systems that are based partly on common law and partly on civil law) awarded by a number of universities in Scotland and South Africa, respectively.
The first academic degrees were all law degrees in medieval universities, and the first law degrees were doctorates.〔de Ridder-Symoens, Hilde: ''A History of the University in Europe: Volume 1, Universities in the Middle Ages'', Cambridge University Press, 1992, ISBN 0-521-36105-2〕 The foundations of the first universities were the glossators of the 11th century, which were also schools of law.〔Herbermann, et al. (1915). (Catholic Encyclopedia ). New York: Encyclopedia Press. Accessed May 26, 2008.〕 The first university, that of Bologna, was founded as a school of law by four famous legal scholars in the 12th century who were students of the glossator school in that city. The University of Bologna served as the model for other law schools of the medieval age.〔García y García, A. (1992). ("The Faculties of Law," A History of the University in Europe ), London: Cambridge University Press. Accessed May 26, 2008.〕 While it was common for students of law to visit and study at schools in other countries, such was not the case with England because of the English rejection of Roman law (except for certain jurisdictions such as the Admiralty Court), and although the University of Oxford and University of Cambridge did teach canon law until the English Reformation, its importance was always superior to civil law in those institutions.〔García y García (1992), 390.〕
The bachelor's degree originated at the University of Paris, whose system was implemented at Oxford and Cambridge.〔Reed, (1921), 160〕 The "arts" designation of the degree traditionally signifies that the student has undertaken a certain amount of study of the classics.〔Reed (1921), 161〕 On continental Europe the bachelor's degree was phased out in the 18th or early 19th century but it continued at Oxford and Cambridge.
The teaching of law at Oxford University was for philosophical or scholarly purposes and not meant to prepare one to practise law.〔Stein (1981), 434, 435.〕 Professional training for practising common law in England was undertaken at the Inns of Court, but over time the training functions of the Inns lessened considerably and apprenticeships with individual practitioners arose as the prominent medium of preparation.〔Stein (1981), 434, 436.〕 However, because of the lack of standardization of study and of objective standards for appraisal of these apprenticeships, the role of universities became subsequently of importance for the education of lawyers in the English speaking world.〔
In England in 1292 when Edward I first requested that lawyers be trained, students merely sat in the courts and observed, but over time the students would hire professionals to lecture them in their residences, which led to the institution of the Inns of Court system.〔Stein, R. (1981). (The Path of Legal Education from Edward to Langdell: A History of Insular Reaction ), Pace University School of Law Faculty Publications, 1981, 57 Chi.-Kent L. Rev. 429, p. 430.〕 The original method of education at the Inns of Court was a mix of moot court-like practice and lecture, as well as court proceedings observation.〔Stein (1981), 431.〕 By the seventeenth century, the Inns obtained a status as a kind of university akin to the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge, though very specialized in purpose.〔Stein (1981), 432.〕 With the frequent absence of parties to suits during the Crusades, the importance of the lawyer role grew tremendously, and the demand for lawyers grew.〔Stein (1981), 433.〕
Traditionally Oxford and Cambridge did not see common law as worthy of study, and included coursework in law only in the context of canon and civil law and for the purpose of the study of philosophy or history only. The apprenticeship program for solicitors thus emerged, structured and governed by the same rules as the apprenticeship programs for the trades.〔Stein (1981), 434.〕 The training of solicitors by apprenticeship was formally established by an act of parliament in 1729.〔Stein (1981), 435.〕 William Blackstone became the first lecturer in English common law at the University of Oxford in 1753, but the university did not establish the program for the purpose of professional study, and the lectures were very philosophical and theoretical in nature.〔 Blackstone insisted that the study of law should be university based, where concentration on foundational principles can be had, instead of concentration on detail and procedure had through apprenticeship and the Inns of Court.〔Moline, Brian J., (Early American Legal Education ), 42 Washburn Law Journal 775, 793 (2003).〕
The Inns of Court continued but became less effective and admission to the bar still did not require any significant educational activity or examination, therefore in 1846 the Parliament examined the education and training of prospective barristers and found the system to be inferior to the legal education provided in the United States.〔Stein (1981), 436.〕 Therefore, formal schools of law were called for, but not finally established until later in the century, and even then the bar did not consider a university degree in admission decisions.〔 When law degrees were required by the English bar and bar associations in other common law countries, the LL.B. became the uniform degree for lawyers in common law countries.
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