The law degrees J.D. and LL.B. have similarities and differences. They are awarded primarily based on the country standard where the degree is earned, and are both considered a first-level law degree.

Definition of J.D. and LL.B Degrees

The J.D. degree stands for Juris Doctor, and the LL.B. Degree stands for Legum Baccalaureus, which literally means Bachelor of Laws. A J.D. degree is required in most states to gain entrance to the bar.

History of the LL.B. Degree

The LL.B. is based on English “common law.” Until the mid-1960s, it was the benchmark law degree for all common law countries, including the U.S. In the 1970s, U.S. law schools changed to the J.D. degree. Although the LL.B. degree was the standard law degree in Europe for hundreds of years, in 1820, Harvard University became the first American university to award the LL.B. degree.

Differences Between the Two

Unlike the bachelor-level LL.B., the J.D. is a post-graduate, three-year professional law degree. In addition to being the standard degree to practice law in the U.S., the J.D. is becoming more customary in Canada, Hong Kong, Australia and elsewhere.

Curriculum Similarities

Although each degree's curricula focus on the practice of law, the LL.B. is more academic in nature. The recipient of an LL.B. may require further accreditation before entering practice, depending on the country. This may not apply in countries where the LL.B. is earned as a post-graduate degree. In such cases, the LL.B. and J.D. may be treated equally.


While the J.D. degree is technically a doctoral degree, recipients are not addressed as “Dr.” That is reserved for a more advanced law degree -- for example, Doctor of Juridical Science, or J.S.D.