Jurisprudence is the theory or philosophy of law and law students will study Jurisprudence in most general law degrees.
Many law schools offer Jurisprudence, but it is usually the most respected institutions that are the most likely to offer the chance of an in-depth study of Jurisprudence.
What is Jurisprudence?
In different legal contexts and different countries, Jurisprudence has slightly different meanings. For example, in the United States, Jurisprudence is generally accepted as the study of the philosophy of the law and so also a study of the institutions of the law. There are many different approaches to Jurisprudence in the US including schools of Naturalist Jurisprudence and Feminist Jurisprudence. Jurisprudence can include other topics such as those in the social sciences or moral reasoning and how judges come to their decisions. In the United Kingdom, Jurisprudence is often studied alongside Legal Theory and this concentrates on many academic areas of the law including abstract moral judgements that have to be made in legal cases.
Why study Jurisprudence?
Jurisprudence is an intensely intellectual study of the law and the moral and philosophical debates around it. Understanding your own opinions about the different philosophical approaches to Jurisprudence will make you a better lawyer, as you will understand the root of the law and why it is the way that it is. During your time at law school as a postgraduate student, you will be able to meet new contacts and people who may be able to help you once you graduate. For those students who are considering a PhD in the Law, an LLM in Jurisprudence is often a stepping-stone to studying a PhD.
Which careers are helped by studying Jurisprudence?
Any legal career can be helped by studying Jurisprudence and all law students will study the subject at some point in their academic life. To study it at postgraduate level will allow you to fully understand the law and will allow you to continue to advise on all aspects of the law, especially in new, developing and untested areas of the law. If you are considering an academic career in the law, then the intensive intellectual nature of Jurisprudence will test and flex those academic muscles.
What are the options to study Jurisprudence at PG level?
In the United States there are two types of postgraduate programs in Jurisprudence. Some LLMs focus on or specialise in Jurisprudence and then there is a Masters of Jurisprudence. A Masters of Jurisprudence is aimed at those students who do not have a law undergraduate degree and don't want to become lawyers. Most law schools offering an LLM in the US will offer some form of module on Jurisprudence, but researching while choosing a course to apply to is key to finding the perfect course. Outside of the States, you will have to study an LLM or graduate entry to an undergraduate law degree to study Jurisprudence.
Law Schools offering LLMs in Jurisprudence
Here is a selection of law schools that offer Master of Laws programs in Jurisprudence.
New York University – LLM in Legal Theory
Harvard University – LLM with a large number of Jurisprudence courses
University of Cambridge – LLM with papers on Jurisprudence
University of Edinburgh – LLM in Law with a number of Legal Theory modules
University of Toronto – Thesis-Intensive LLM