I don't quite understand the education process for lawyers, but I do understand there are a number of different degrees, and one of them is 'JD', the juris doctor. My Latin is quite rusty, but I believe that is "Doctor of Law."

So why are they not called "doctor" in common practice, like any PhD is? Is the JD actually not similar to a doctorate program? If not, then why does it take the name doctor?

I understand that the JD is what they call a "1st degree" and there are even higher degrees. The LLM, for example, is a "Master of Laws", which really confuses things now because "master" degrees are normally less than "doctor" degrees. So if a JD is not not called a "doctor" for some logical reason, what about the LLM, since it is a higher degree?

I'm coming from an American perspective, so I would like an answer from an American perspective, please.

  • 3
    The vast majority of PhDs are almost never called "doctor", it's generally used for medical doctors.
    – Cape Code
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:04
  • 5
    @CapeCode Where is that? All the one's I know are called "doctor".
    – user23776
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:20
  • Have you read the Wikipedia page? Jul 12, 2015 at 7:30
  • @PeterTaylor Yes, and it sounds like a pretty involved degree to me.
    – user23776
    Jul 12, 2015 at 7:50
  • 2
    @matthew Pretentiousness is not a requirement to want recognition for your contributions to the field.
    – user23776
    Jun 9, 2016 at 19:52

1 Answer 1


The American Bar Association has a nice explanatory essay that answers exactly this question.

In essence, in the United States, the J.D. degree is quite new, with lawyers having previously received a professional degree that was not called a doctorate. As such, it has generally been considered problematically confusing to call a lawyer "doctor" and also possibly unethical as undue self-promotion (lawyers used to be prohibited even from advertising in many areas).

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