April 15, 2011

Kill all the "Juris Doctorates"

It's a very common error to call the J.D. (law) degree a "Juris Doctorate"; lawyers sometimes make this mistake too, even in print.

"Juris Doctorate" can't be right because it mixes Latin "juris" and English "doctorate" (the Latin word would be doctoratus). "J.D." is short for juris doctor, "doctor of law." It's not doctor of "laws" either--"juris" is singular for "of law."  The venerable Stanford Law School says that "J.D." is "doctor of jurisprudence," but there's no evidence on websites or in dictionaries of "doctor jurisprudentiae" in the U.S.--but I guess "doctor of jurisprudence" can be an acceptable (if arrogant and maybe imprecise) translation of "juris doctor."

So do you address lawyer with a juris doctor degree as "Doctor," as you do someone who has a philosophiae doctor or a medicinae doctor degree?  It may be common in Europe, but it's really not done here in the U.S.--it's even considered unethical in many states.  Have you ever heard of a lawyer calling himself "Doctor?"


  1. No, but some PhDs have decided that they are doctors -- a practice that's as odd (and pompous) as a lawyer calling herself a doctor...

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