Osgoode Jumps on the JD Bandwagon

The Osgoode Hall community received an e-mail today regarding the “JD or LLB?” debate, that had pretty much disappeared from most of our minds due to the dramatic collective action (or perhaps more fitting, inaction) that’s been going on at York University since the beginning of November.

It must have been a happy day for the York Senate who, for the first time in months, were able to grant approval to a motion that didn’t piss someone off.  They followed the example of US law schools and an increasing amount of Canadian law schools who have dropped the LLB (Bachelor of Laws) handle and pick up the JD (Juris Doctor) in its stead.

About a year ago we all voted on it.  And by “all,” I mean only those of us who bothered to participate in the democratic process.  73% of students voted in favour of the change, while 90% of the alumni surveyed did the same.  I’m somewhat curious as to why more alumni voted in favour than current students.  Perhaps the former have been practicing for a while and haven’t been fully satisfied with their degrees as they were.  I hope I don’t have the same problem.

So why the change?

The main reason given for Canadian and American schools switching to the JD is that it more accurately reflects the “nature” of our law schools.  The distinction is pretty simple:  In some countries people attend law school after at least a couple years of undergraduate studies, and in others they attend law school straight out of high school.  But we all get an LLB in the end.

Actually, I look back to when I was filling out my law school applications and recall reading in many cases something to the effect of “We will take you with two years of undergraduate studies if we have to, but highly recommend you complete the whole degree first.”  Maybe we’re on our way to a strictly post-graduate program.  In fact, because of the incredibly high demand for positions at Canadian law schools, I wouldn’t be surprised if that eventually happened.  Yet another way of thinning the herd.

I myself know several people that have headed down south for their law degrees because the schools are so numerous that some of them are forced to have lower standards, and other people who have headed across the pond to take advantage of the more relaxed substantive admissions requirements.

There will always be the argument that the schools that opt for the JD designation are just elitist institutions seeking to differentiate themselves from schools that will take just about anyone.  While this may in some circumstances be the case, I personally believe that there are true differences in the ways some countries and their law schools operate, and I don’t see anything wrong with the superficial title of the degrees reflecting that reality.

For whatever reason they’ve decided to make the change, I approve.  Not only is it another reason to update my facebook profile, but I also suddenly feel slightly cooler than I did yesterday.  “Juris Doctor.”  Nice.

About the Author

Thomas Wisdom
Second-year law student at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University (Toronto, Canada).