Canadian law degrees – LL.B. vs. J.D.

I’ve noticed a number of news items in recent weeks about the emerging trend of Canadian law schools making a switch from the LL.B. to J.D. degree designations. U of T has been doing this for some time already. UBC has recently received approval from their Board of Governors to make the switch. Western is currently mid-stream on the same debate and I’m given to understand that Queens and Osgoode Hall are also exploring the possiblity. There appears to be a groundswell of support from student ranks who feel the move will make the degrees (and their holders) more attractive in the international legal marketplace.

Clearly, old age is creeping up on me because I find myself falling squarely into the camp of the traditionalists on this one. Despite the apparent popularity for the switch, I personally find it hard to believe that the types of international firms that are hiring significant numbers of Canadian lawyers have any confusion regarding an LL.B. degree. Indeed, as quoted in the Lawyers Weekly article on the topic, both Western Dean Ian Holloway, and Osgoode Dean Patrick Monahan acknowledge that the change is unlikely to have much impact on international hiring. As aptly stated by Dean Holloway, such firms “don’t just hire Canadians. They hire graduates from Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong, India. These are global firms. Regardless of the degree designation, they know just what they’re getting.”

Setting aside the international marketability question, part of the impetus from the student ranks might also be explained by the fact that in some universities, such as Western, law students are deemed as undergraduates within the university community, thereby precluding them from graduate-level perks such as parking privileges. That, however, is in my view a university-specific glitch that can be easily rectified without changing the degree designation. Indeed, harking back lo those many years to my own law school days at UVIC, law students were recognized as graduate students and had access to the grad student lounge, etc.
Call me squarely behind the times on this one. I say long live the LL.B.!


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