Most of my family doesn’t know that I am still in school. And those who do know have no clue what type of degree I am working on — and honestly many people don’t know what a J.D. is, they just know what a lawyer is.
Lawyers and doctors are thought of amongst societies elite, but many people don’t even understand the process that comes before the title. So, my hope is that this post will help just a tiny bit.
A lot of people are confused about what level of education a Juris Doctorate is, even though the answer is in the title. Don’t worry, I understand!
Many think that a J.D. and a Master’s are about the same, which is simply NOT true. Here’s a boring spectrum, if ever there were one:
High School Diploma ➡️AA Degree ➡️BA/BS (Bachelor’s Degree) ➡️MA/MBA (Master’s Degree) ➡️ Doctorate Degrees — PsyD/Juris Doctorate/PhD/MD
Every degree in the last category are amongst the highest degrees that one can receive. So there is no ‘I got a Master’s instead of a Juris Doctorate’ because they are simply not in the same category. If it’s easier, you can think of them as stepping stones.
I know a person with a degree in every category (or degree in progress) so I just think of each of them as a stepping stone to the next where one is required before the other (except Master’s). I see each as more and more of an accomplishment along the way, but I am sure to educate myself on what each degree means so that I address each person with said degree accordingly.
You worked for the degree, but I’m not in the business of giving you more than what you worked for or of giving you less than what you worked for. So, the levels are important.
The only reason that I forget that I am getting a degree in the doctoral level of education is that I am not done once I finish school. I still have to sit for the bar exam (although this is an option, and not everyone who attends law school takes the bar exam).
I oftentimes forget to pat myself on the back for the work that I’ve done, the progress that I’ve made, and the places that I’ve been with the hard work that I’ve put into getting these degrees.
But, I want it to be clear that, once you get a degree such as a J.D., you have options!
You can be done and simply denote that you have a J.D. by leaving those initials at the end of your name (which is cool). _____________, J.D.
You can take the part of the degree that acknowledges you as a Doctor of Jurisprudence and call yourself Dr. ____________.
You can sit for the bar exam, pass, and place “Esquire/Esq.” in your surname — making you ____________, Esq.
Do nothing and keep your degree a secret. I commend your humility.
But, as long as you pass the bar exam (in addition to your moral character application and the MPRE), you can practice law in your state. Otherwise, you can work wherever you see fit — many with J.D.s go to the Capitol.
So, I think that I’ve said all that needs to be said about a Juris Doctorate degree.
The big takeaways here are that (1) THIS IS A BIG DEAL; (2) Acknowledge people’s degrees correctly — they worked hard for it!; (3) if you’re unsure about what someone’s degree is or what to call them, then JUST ASK THEM. If they aren’t jerks, then chances are, they’ll explain it to you (I’ve had someone try to place Master’s and J.D.’s in the same category and then get upset when I asked her what a Master’s was in comparison to a J.D.).
Moving forward! Congrats to the Class of 2019. Congrats to all receiving Juris Doctorate degrees. Hopefully this post helps to explain what the heck that actually means.