Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Why aren't lawyers called "doctors"

After all, we have a "Juris Doctor." I asked this two posts down in my "I just graduated from law school" post...seriously, if we have a "doctorate" why aren't we called "doctors."

One of my partners over at the Induce Act Blog sent me this link where Mr. Kinsella, Esq. (not "Dr." Kinsella mind you) explains why we aren't called doctors.

Basically, as he points out, we just don't deserve such a respectable title.

KinsellaLaw on the "Juris Doctor"


Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

I agree with that Kinsella. He seems to be very perceptive.

6/10/2005 1:05 AM  
Blogger Stephan Kinsella said...

An update of my "Doctor lawyer" post is available here, by the way.

6/10/2005 1:11 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to "KinsellaLaw” on the Juris Doctor, while I agree with his ultimate conclusion that lawyers need not use the honorific “Dr.”, I find a hole in the logic supporting his conclusion that the juris doctor is somehow inferior to a PH.D. Do a quick Google search. Like law schools, most doctoral programs do not require that applicants have previous degrees in the same discipline. Even more interesting is the fact that many domestic medical schools don't even require a bachelor degree for admissions. They like em’, but they don’t require them. In light of this fact, I don’t see why the juris doctor is an inferior degree.

6/22/2005 5:12 PM  
Blogger CRC said...

Well, I did a MS before going to law school and my sis went from a MS in Poli Sci to a PhD in Econ, so I have a little experience here. I don't need to look at program websites to know that schools, at the minimum, encourage PhD applicants to have previous degrees in the same subject. Many will make a PhD applicant do an extra year of MS work if they dont already have that degree, others will just make you take the basic MS courses first and then let you in. But an applicant generally has little chance of getting into a top PhD program if they have no formal education in the subject already.

Also, the JD is a degree one can get right out of college in only 3 years. A PhD is not. Typically, some sort of MS is required, I'm sure there are examples to the contrary but that's the norm. Therefore, to get a PhD is usually a 6 year endeavor (as is medical school) where one spends 2 year doing an MS and 4 doing a PhD (of course many take even longer). Doing the PhD also involves teaching courses in your area of expertise and writing a dissertation in furtherance of the mastery of the subject.

For lawyers there is a degree beyond the JD which one can get with (typically) an additional two years of work. It is an LLM - a master of law and letters.

If anything, the two degrees should be switched in their order. It would make more sense to get the LLM first and the JD second.

I don't think a law degree is "inferior" to a PhD or medical degree (I doubt Stephan does either), but they're certainly different. It probably just goes back to tradition that a lawyer with an advanced law degree isn't called a doctor.

Certainly few would disagree that a lawyer who's completed what is essentially a 3 year education (that is partly trade school style) deserves the honorific though.

6/23/2005 3:01 PM  
Blogger SecondLaw said...

I recently read your web-site concerning the debate regarding the term Dr. and lawyers. Here is some information that I found. I typially agree with Kinsella that it is silly but here is some information that might change some thoughts.

1. According to the accrediting bodies for college a typical MS in Chemistry (not easy) requires 30 hours of work. Of which 6 is for writing. No BS in the same subject is required.
2. According to the same sources and verified by looking at several Ivy schools a PhD in Chemistry requires 78 hours.
3. ABA requires no fewer than 90 hours of course work for a law degree. Most JD candidates have close to 98 - 104. Thus equal course hours to earning a MS and PhD.
4. Writing. In the first year of law school (currently). 1Ls will right anywhere between 50 to 140 pages or original research work. This is more than required for the MS. By the time a JD graduates they will have written three times as much and if in law review even more than both the MS and PhD student combined.
5. ABA issued a policy statement that JDs were to be treated equally as PhDs in academic sessions to the above stated reasons.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

10/05/2006 1:48 PM  
Blogger SecondLaw said...

Sorry about the typos...writing on the go...

10/05/2006 1:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am an Attorney in Puerto Rico... we do not use the Dr. title. But all Universities treat the JD as a Doctors degree. JD graduates are able to teach as profesors both fir BA and Master Degrees. In order to use the Dr. title in PR one must have a PhD or Ll.D. I was wondering why our Universities in PR dont give us a degree in Civil Law since we are a mix of common law and civil law... oh and lawyers in PR enjoy the special title of Lcdo. for a male and Lcda. for a female. Meaning Licenciado(a) or Licensed Attorney. So a lawyers name appears as such: Lcdo. John Q. Public, J.D.
Looks profesional and no one thinks you are an MD :)

12/10/2006 2:09 AM  
Anonymous Javy said...

I suggest that if you want to be called a Dr. you get a Ll.D or a Ph.D

12/10/2006 2:27 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Just a comment. For those that don't have experience with JD, MD, or PhD stop talking about course hours. For an MD and JD course hours are relevant. For a PhD course hours don't tell a quarter of the story. When you complete your course work in JD or MD cases you get to be called Doctor (excluding major school/professional exams). You don't even have to truly practice your field or teach your field before you get to be called Doctor. With a PhD you do not get to be called Doctor after said hours of course work. You don't get to be called Doctor until you have COMPLETED detailed, complicated, and UNIQUE research (and in many cases have taught in your feild). By unique that means no one in the world has done this before. You publish your results in a peer reviewed journal (typically 3 publications is considered good) you write a 100-200 page dissertation and defend it. Then you get to be called Doctor.. process can take on average 4-10 years (this does not include the programs that require a MS before you start... that's another 2 years there also). Most PhDs have completed course work in the first 2-3 years. Of course I am only referring to the science PhDs. I can not speak to the others.

At the end of the day however the honorific is determined by your field. PhDs (Doctorate of Philosophy) are called Doctor in the traditional sense in that they are in many cases teachers or have taught. MDs (Medical Doctorate) are called by the clinical term doctor. JD (Juridical Doctorate)
Source: Have a PhD and many colleagues and friends with JDs and MDs.

5/15/2008 1:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have just completed my first year of law school. As Kinsella stated JD stands for Juris Doctor and not Doctorate and after one receives his J.D. he/she will not be considered a Doctor. Although there are valid points on either side, I believe that it would quite appeasing if there was some type of distinguishing title given to J.D. recipients. Although people may try to argue that our degree isn't as hard to recieve as the M.D.'s or the PHD's I would beg to differ. Atleast in medical there is a right answer. Everything in law school has an exception! There is always something that undermines a rule. There are always atleast 3 sides to each story. And PHD's definitly have a lot of paper's to do but this should not be an essay contest. If it is there are hundreds of law reviews to prove that writing is not taken lightly in law school either. This is not a contest at all, it would just be nice for me to be able to be introduced as something other than what everyone else can be introduced as...meaning distinguished...after this first year I feel I have definitly worked hard for that much.

5/28/2009 1:01 AM  
Blogger . said...

This from Widipedia:

Historically, lawyers in most European countries were addressed with the title of doctor, and countries outside of Europe have generally followed the practice of the European country which had policy influence through modernization or colonialization. The first university degrees, starting with the law school of the University of Bologna (or glossators) in the 11th century, were all law degrees and doctorates. Degrees in other fields were not granted until the 13th century, but the doctorate continued to be the only degree offered at many of the old universities up until the 20th century. As a result, in many of the southern European countries, including Portugal, Spain and Italy, lawyers have traditionally been addressed as “doctor,” a practice which was transferred to many countries in South America (as well as Macau in China).

The title of doctor has not customarily been used to address lawyers in England or other common law countries (with the exception of the United States) because until 1846 lawyers in England were not required to have a university degree and were trained by other attorneys by apprenticeship or in the Inns of Court. As such, lawyers in England were not doctoral candidates and had not earned the doctorate level degree. When university degrees became a prerequisite to become a lawyer in England, the degree awarded was the undergraduate LL.B.

Though lawyers in the United States do not customarily use such a title, the law degree in that country is the Juris Doctor, a professional doctorate degree, and some J.D. holders in the United States use the title of "Doctor" in professional and academic situations. In countries where holders of the first law degree traditionally use the title of doctor (e.g. Peru, Brazil, Macau, Portugal, Argentina, and Italy), J.D. holders who are attorneys will often use the title of doctor as well.

In many Asian countries, the proper title for a lawyer is simply, “lawyer,” but holders of the Juris Doctor degree are also called "博士" (doctor).

11/05/2009 2:04 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

This question has long been the subject of much senseless debate in academic circles and internet discussion groups. Detractors of the JD or Juris Doctorate are quick to argue that it is not a doctorate degree since it does not require the presentation of a dissertation showing original research or the development of a new body of knowledge. What the critics really mean is that the JD is not the equivalent to a PhD, which it isn't nor does it claim to be. However, the JD is certainly a doctorate degree.

A JD is as much a doctoral degree as the Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD), Doctor of Business Administration (DBA), Doctor of Education (EdD) or any other *PROFESSIONAL DOCTORATE* degrees that universities care to create or recognize. Whether these professional doctorate degrees are the equivalent of research-based PhD degrees is a nonsense question. They two species of degrees are very different in purpose and hence differ in training.

PhDs involve research and the presentation of a new body of knowledge to further the bounds of existing knowledge. PhDs traditionally work in academia though now an increasing number go into some area of consulting.

Professional doctorates train people to perform certain high-level, knowledge-based tasks. The two are different and both types are doctoral level work.

The argument that JD is not a doctorate degree because its holder does not create new knowledge is a specious one. Medical Doctors, Dentists, Vets, Pharmacists also do not create any new knowledge when earning their degrees, and yet the doctoral nature of their degree is not refuted by holders of PhDs.

IMO, I think this debate all boils down to jealously and arrogance on the part of PhDs. They cannot tolerate the notion that someone can spend just 3 years to get a (professional) doctorate in less time than it takes for them to earn their PhDs. They also abhor the fact that JDs are generally better compensated than PhDs. Lastly, they miss the fact that the JD is as much a doctoral degree as any other professional doctorate degree. This equivalency has been verified by American universities nationwide and even the US Federal Government, which I understand does not discriminate between holders of JDs and PhDs when filling out administrative posts that require a "doctoral degree".

12/13/2010 2:50 AM  
Blogger Ed said...

I've also seen the argument that the JD degree cannot be a doctoral degree because it is not the highest degree available in law. They note the existence of the Master of Laws (LLM) and Doctorate of Juridical Science (JSD or SJD) degrees.

At American universities, these degrees (LLM, JSD) are most typically earned by/available only to foreign attorneys cum academics who are already licensed to practice law in their home countries. For them to become professors either in the US or their home countries, they need higher levels of training and scholarship than what they have achieved with their first law degree, which is typically a four year, undergraduate degree called a bachelors of laws (LLB). In most foreign countries (I'm assuming a mostly US audience here), law is an undergraduate degree. It is the first university degree they earn after high school. Having attended law school both in the US (a top 20 law school) and UK (UCL), I can safely say the British LLB is nowhere nearly as rigorous as the American JD, which is a graduate level degree in the US, though both degrees are first professional degrees.

Few American JDs are eligible for/bother to earn these so called "higher" qualifications (LLM, JSD). Those that do have very specific (e.g., narrow) research interests and are typically in pursuit of academic careers. In short, they want to be professors in very specific areas of the law. Most American law professors, however, teach with no more than a JD and yet they are fully tenured and hold the rank of full professor. So an LLM or JSD is not a requirement for American JDs to teach as professors in American law schools or even other programs like city and regional planning. This is unlike the foreign law graduates who must first earn graduate level law degrees.

So in conclusion, JDs are eligible to teach as full professors at American universities much like their PhD counterparts. Foreign lawyers wishing to teach as professors in the US or in their home countries must face a bigger uphill battle since they are expected to earn graduate level law degrees such as the LLM or JSD. They must earn these graduate degrees because their training thus far is deemed insufficient (they typically have only a four year undergraduate degree called a bachelors of laws or "LLB" for short). Few or no American universities would give such a person with just an undergraduate degree full professor status. Notice, this is not a problem for American JDs because they hold a graduate level/professional doctorate degree.

Those few American JDs that earn LLMs or JSDs do so out of personal curiosity and enrichment. In such instances, the LLM and JSD degrees are not really "higher" degrees to the JD, which is a professional degree. Instead, they are specialized, research degrees. Again (see my earlier post), we are talking about two tracks of doctoral work: a performance-based, professional degree for practitioners (i.e., the JD) and a research-based, teaching degree for academics (i.e., the LLM and JSD). Both are equally valid and necessary for a vibrant society. They should therefore respect one another.

12/15/2010 10:20 PM  
Blogger Ed said...

I am a qualified attorney in NYS. According to an opinion of the New York State Bar Association, "[a] lawyer who has earned a doctor's degree in law (J.D., S.J.D. or J.S.D.) may also use the title 'Doctor', both professionally and socially". See Opinion 105a at:

So at least in NY, there is nothing to prevent a lawyer with a JD (Juris Doctor, Juris Doctorate, or Doctor of Jurisprudence) from calling himself/herself "doctor". Admittedly, however, it is rarely done and I have only seen NY lawyers using the title "doctor" in foreign countries.

12/16/2010 6:50 AM  
Blogger Thinker13 said...

It seems some have confusion about the juxtaposition of a PhD and professional degree. Both are equally prestigious. Doctor in Latin means teach or teacher. Both the J.D. and PhD qualify for post secondary teaching. Second, both are considered doctorate degrees and thus should carry the same title of Dr. If I was to assume, I would say that for some reason tradition has removed the Dr. title from lawyer because of the title being typically granted to medical doctors and the two professions are inherently different. As a result, the title was linked with them solely. In addition, most lay people think Dr. is exclusive to M.D.s or D.O. So to call a lawyer Dr. would not make logical sense to them. Thus the tradition started. (This last bit is purely speculation and observation)
My four main points:
1. M.D. and D.O. are not Ph.D but are called doctors, therefore so should J.D. (Keep in mind some M.D. do have Ph.D because they are psychiatrist and have a dual doctorate so they can both diagnose mental disease and prescribe to treat it. They specialize in mental ailments.)
2. Ph.D and J.D. are both doctorates. J.D. is just more focused into a category of professional degree due to the nature of the training and inherent profession of said degree.
3. Both degrees carry the Latin term Doctor which means to teach, so should be treated equally. As well as the credit hours being the same or greater for a J.D.
4. The title Dr. given to medical and academic professionals but not to lawyers seems to be the victim of some illogical tradition and ignorance not academic inadequacy.

7/09/2012 1:39 PM  
Blogger Thinker13 said...

I agree with most Ed said except the fact about the J.D. not being equivalent to a PhD. The credit hours as said above and cited by SecondLaw are the same if not greater. As for body of new knowledge, J.D.s publish articles and in magazines or write books on law theory every day. The notion of PhDs give a dissertation on a "new body of knowledge" is not true in an overwhelming majority of cases. Each candidate is given a thesis adviser, which for the most part can tank your whole dissertation if they find it to be unworthy or baseless in their eyes. And god forbid a student finds results or does research that conflicts with their adviser. As a result, most PhD students merely extend or mirror research and theory of their thesis adviser. No genuine or wholly original research is done. Unless in the case that is one in a billion, and that the candidate is some up and coming genius and has discovered something truly groundbreaking. Even then, the student may experience friction with their adviser. I beg those reading to watch the movie "Dark Matter" it is a true story of a Chinese physicist in a PhD program. The point I'm making comes near the very end. It is actually a good movie and has Meryl Streep in it so it’s not bad.

Lastly, one relevant point I find is that medical doctors and lawyers still have to pass a test to become licensed. A PhD does not. So this itself can neutralize or liquidate the notion that a PhD dissertation makes it a more accomplished degree.

7/09/2012 1:41 PM  

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