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(TL;DR - Summary) Why study 2 first professional degrees in law? I know firsthand that a first degree in law from Canada, US, UK, or Oceania qualifies for postgraduate law programs (eg LLM) in these countries. So why did these 'legal eagles' NOT do an LLM, in place of the second LLB or JD? Doing a second LLB or JD, resembles repetition of material already learned.


(Optional Reading) I know that in North America, the LLB is superseded by the JD, but not in other Commonwealth countries (eg Oceania, UK). I exemplify with some notable legal practitioners:

SCOC Justices (whom I originally found from this article):

Ronald Martland,   B.A. in 1926, an LL.B in 1928 (University of Alberta),
BA in 1930, a BCL in 1931 (Hertford College, Oxford University)

Gérard La Forest   BCL in 1949 (University of New Brunswick), BA in 1951, MA in 1956
(St John's College, Oxford)

Ian Binnie,  LL.B in 1963, LL.M in 1988 (Cambridge University), LL.B in 1965 (U of Toronto)

Governor General of Canada David Johnston,
LL.B in 1965 (Cambridge University), LL.B in 1966 Queen's University.

I don't know what Justice Julien Chouinard studied at Oxford; so I don't list him.

Professor Trevor Farrow,  
BA/MA Jurisprudence in 1992 (Wadham College, Oxford), LLB in 1993 (Dalhousie Law School)

Retired SCOTUS Justice David Souter,  A.B. magna cum laude in 1961 (Harvard),
MA Jurisprudence in 1963 (Magdalen College, Oxford), LLB in 1965 (Harvard Law School)

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Basically: what Flup said in his last paragraph (and so upvoted accordingly).

Every one of the practitioners you named has an undergraduate degree from the UK, and an undergraduate degree from Canada. This, presumably, is because you're not permitted to practise law in most jurisdictions unless you have some kind of qualification in the law of that particular jurisdiction. The laws of each country, and moreover, the way in which cases are decided and in which each country's legal system works, varies so tremendously that you need to study the particulars for each jurisdiction before you can practice there.

Regarding Canada: from this site:

You must complete a Bachelor of Laws (L.L.B.) program or Juris Doctor (J.D.) program in order to qualify for bar membership in any Canadian province or territory. This generally takes three years to complete.

In England and Wales, you can now take a law conversion course in place of an undergraduate law degree as a first stage towards being qualified. I suspect, however, looking at the dates of the judges you list, that the law conversion course wasn't an option at the time they got their qualifications, so their only option was a full undergraduate course.

So the answer is: they each have two undergraduate qualifications, one from each jurisdiction, so that they could qualify to practise law in both jurisdictions.

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In England and Wales, there are three stages of legal training:

  • academic
  • vocational
  • professional (not covered here)

The academic stage is satisfied by a qualifying first degree in law (e.g. an LLB). At this point the student must decide whether to qualify as a solicitor or a barrister; the former must undertake the LPC, the latter must do the BPTC. This second round of qualifications can optionally lead to an LLM with some extra work. Only once these qualifications have been gained can the student proceed to the final stage of training.

There is another important point about your examples who studied at Oxford or Cambridge. These universities (as well as Trinity College Dublin) award an MA automatically (or on demand) a few years after graduation with no further academic requirement.

Edit— I've just realised that I slightly missed the point of your question. Looking at your list, the people that did two LLBs did them in different jurisdictions, so the material would be substantially different.

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In the U.S., the main reasons that a U.S. person takes a graduate degree in law after earning a J.D. or L.L.B. is usually to develop an academic specialty (most commonly tax, but there are a few other specialty practice L.L.M.'s offered). Much less frequently, domestic students seek an S.J.D. (an academic degree that is the rough equivalent of a Ph.D.), usually with a career as a law professor in mind, although an S.J.D. is not a requirement for such a position.

Some people, usually foreign nationals, pursue either an L.L.M. (often in what amounts to comparative law), for reasons that aren't always entirely clear to me, or an S.J.D. for the same reasons that a domestic student would.

An L.L.M. in the U.S. won't necessarily make it easier to be admitted to practice in the U.S. than a foreign law degree without an L.L.M., but it does afford someone taking it a greater familiarity with U.S. law and often with international law. In my experience, most L.L.M. students I knew in law school (at the University of Michigan) were from Asia and most were judges engaging in some form of continuing education, but I don't know if that is typical.

  • Thanks, but my first question concerns 'two FIRST degrees' in law, not postgraduate law degrees? – Greek - Area 51 Proposal Jan 25 '17 at 20:31

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