What Is the LLB Degree? Your Law Degree Guide

Written by Coursera • Updated on

Explore the difference between a Bachelor of Laws (LLB) and a JD, and learn what you’ll need to do to attend law school in the United States.

[Featured image] A barrister meets with a client after receiving her LLB.

The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) is an undergraduate degree used in commonwealth countries like Great Britain. It differs significantly from the Juris Doctor (JD) degree used in the United States. 

An LLB degree is the first step to becoming a practicing solicitor or barrister, the titles for lawyers in the United Kingdom and several other countries. Upon completion of the LLB, a graduate can apply for a Master of Laws (LLM), the equivalent of the JD degree in the United States.

In this article, we'll discuss the LLB degree, who needs one, and how the JD came to replace the LLB in the United States.

What does 'LLB' stand for?

'LLB' is short for Legum Baccalaureus, Latin for 'Bachelor of Laws.' 

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What is an LLB?

The LLB is an undergraduate program common in the United Kingdom, India, Australia, and the Canadian province of Quebec. The LLB is for students who are beginning their law education. It’s typically a three-year program that prepares students for the Master of Laws degree or further training. 

While it's not necessary to have an LLB to practice law in the UK, aspiring solicitors do need to complete the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) and two years of legal work training with a law firm.

Those who wish to become barristers must complete a law degree, a Bar course, and work-based learning.

Solicitor vs. barrister: What's the difference?

A solicitor provides legal advice and support to clients, while barristers can represent their clients in the courtroom. Becoming a barrister generally involves more training in subjects like courtroom practice, legal ethics, and laws of evidence. A solicitor may hire a barrister to represent a client in court.

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What skills will you develop while attending an LLB program?

While attending an LLB program, you will have the opportunity to understand the law, which is beneficial even if you don't intend to pursue a legal career. Other skills include:

  • Negotiation: Lawyers and solicitors need to negotiate in verbal and written communication.

  • Conflict resolution: Working in the legal field requires good conflict resolution skills and the ability to understand the perspective of others.

  • Working under pressure: The legal field can be fast-paced with strict timelines and deadlines. 

  • Research: As a lawyer or solicitor, you’ll be doing a lot of research to find evidence, understand case law, or do anything you need to complete a task. 

  • Problem-solving: Problem-solving is a significant component of the legal field. The skills you learn in your degree program can also help you in other careers.

What are the law modules you are likely to study?

You will study a combination of compulsory and elective modules when you study for your LLB. These will be determined by the course offerings of your university. You will likely take mandatory courses in your first two years, and your third year is primarily devoted to electives. Standard law modules include:

  • Contract law

  • Property law

  • Public law

  • Criminal law

  • European Union law

  • Jurisprudence and legal theory

  • Tort law

  • Trusts

  • Land law

  • Constitutional or administrative law

Studying law in the United States

The LLB degree wasn’t always unique to the UK and other Commonwealth countries. It has a history in the US dating back to the nineteenth century. The first LLB degree in the United States was awarded in 1820 by Harvard University. In 1902, the Harvard faculty suggested the JD degree be awarded, but the university didn’t accept it until 1969. By 1971, the JD replaced the LLB throughout the country. 

To become a lawyer in most of the United States, you'll need to earn a JD degree and pass an exam to gain admittance to the state bar.

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