Legal Education

(redirected from Law (academic))
Also found in: Legal.
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Legal Education


(1) A body of knowledge about the government, administration, and law. Possession of a legal education serves as a basis for professional legal activity.

(2) The system of training students to become legal specialists. Such training is given in educational institutions that are devoted to the study of law.

The elements of legal education in each period of history have corresponded to the level of development of legislation and jurisprudence. Certain information on law was included in a general education in ancient times; for example, judicial oratory was taught in the schools of the Stoics in ancient Greece. Gradually jurisprudence took shape as an independent educational discipline, and in ancient Rome a distinct system of legal education developed. Knowledge of law in ancient Rome was originally a privilege of the priests. In 254 B.C, however, Tiberius Coruncani-us, the first plebeian high priest, declared that he would explain the law to anyone who wished to learn. The Roman jurist Pom-ponius wrote that Tiberius Coruncanius was the first to teach law publicly.

The first private law school where teachers gave lectures, answered questions, and conducted debates with students was organized by Sabinus in the first century AD. In the fourth and fifth centuries there existed several such schools with a four-year period of instruction—in Rome, Constantinople, Athens, Alexandria, Caesarea, and Beirut; students in these schools studied the works of famous Roman jurists, with primary attention being devoted to the Institutes of Gaius and the works of Papinian and Paulus. In 533 the emperor Justinian issued a special charter on the introduction of a five-year course of legal study; the curriculum included the obligatory study of his own Institutes, Digest, and Code.

In the early Middle Ages, there was no specialized legal education. In the tenth century, however, a school was founded in Pavía for instruction in Lombardic law. At the end of the 11th century, a law school was established in Bologna; it later became a university, where in the mid-12th century Roman law was studied by several thousand students from various European countries. Between the 12th and 15th centuries in a number of European countries the leading university law faculties taught primarily Roman law. Not until the end of the 18th century did the curricula of law faculties come to include the law of the country in which the faculty was located.

Beginning in the 16th century, attempts were made in Russia to make jurisprudence into an independent subject of study. It was proposed that instruction be offered in canon and civil law in the Slavic-Greek-Latin Academy, which was founded in 1687. In 1715, Peter I was given a Proposal for the Establishment in Russia of an Academy of Policy for the Use of the State Chancelleries. From 1703 to 1715 in Moscow the Naryshkin School taught such subjects as ethics, including elements of jurisprudence, and politics. In accordance with the General Statute of 1720, a college was formed for iunkera (noncommissioned officers of noble birth), who were supposed to engage in the practical study of jurisprudence in the collegia; the college was abolished in 1763, however. When the Academy of Sciences was founded in 1725, provision was made for the creation of a chair of jurisprudence, and from 1725 to 1765 the subject was taught at the Academy University. In 1732 the School for the Nobility was opened; its curriculum included the study of theoretical jurisprudence.

In Moscow University, lectures on law were first given in 1755; however, systematic lectures and instruction at the law faculty began in 1764. In 1767, S. E. Desnitskii and I. A. Tret’iakov, the first Russian professors of law, began teaching courses in the field. Law was taught at all universities founded in Russia in the 18th and 19th centuries, including the universities of Kharkov, Kazan, Dorpat, St. Petersburg, and Odessa. Jurisprudence was introduced in the Demidov Juridical Lycée at Yaroslavl, and in 1835 a law school was opened that provided a higher legal education for dvoriane (noblemen).

In the USSR jurists are trained in the five-year programs offered by university law departments or the four-year programs of law institutes. There are also evening and correspondence programs that require five to six years for completion. The curriculum is designed to give future lawyers both specialized knowledge in a certain area of legal activity and a broad legal background enabling them to fill any position requiring a legal education.

Therefore, along with social and economic sciences (political economy, philosophy, the history of the CPSU, and scientific communism) and general-education disciplines (such as foreign languages and logic), a broad range of legal subjects is taught, including the general theory of the state and law, the history of the state and law, the history of political and legal theory, state law (of the USSR, foreign socialist countries, and bourgeois and developing countries), administrative law, civil law, land law, labor law, kolkhoz law, finance law, criminal law, criminology, the judicial system, international law, civil procedure, and criminal procedure. The three general areas of specialization are government administration and the system of soviets, legal service in the economy, and service as a judge, procurator, or investigator. In addition to courses in their area of specialization, law students take a supplementary group of specialized courses and are given on-the-job training in the organizations where they will be employed in the future. The Academy of Internal Affairs trains legal specialists for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, and the military law department of the Military Institute of the Soviet Army prepares specialists for the Armed Forces of the USSR.

In such countries as the USA, Canada, and the developed capitalist countries of Western Europe, legal education is very widespread, and such training is a sort of tradition. Law schools train personnel for various positions in the government apparatus and prepare lawyers to defend the interests of the ruling class.

After World War II, there was a reduction in the number of law students in capitalist countries, but in the mid-1950’s the number began to increase again. All bourgeois states have experienced a crisis in higher education in general and legal education in particular; this fact is recognized even by bourgeois scholars and the agencies of state power and administration. The redesigning of legal education is directed toward combining theoretical study with practical preparation and with a narrower legal specialization. At law schools, instruction is also given in such disciplines as sociology, psychology, and economics, and great attention is devoted to the study of politics.

There are law schools and institutes in virtually all countries. In France after 1968, universities were divided into branches, which replaced the previously existing faculties. For example, the University of Paris now has 13 branches, six of which offer specialized law programs. In such countries as the USA, Great Britain, and the Federal Republic of Germany, a law degree qualifies a person to hold a job that deals purely with law or that requires both legal and nonlegal skills. Additional qualifications are required, however, in order to find employment as an attorney or prosecutor or in certain governmental capacities. For example, in France a law graduate must pass supplementary examinations and obtain a certificate known as the qualifying certificate in order to become a judge or attorney. In Scandinavia and Latin America, a legal education alone is sufficient qualification for such positions.

Legal education is organized into various stages of instruction. In such countries as the USA, Great Britain, and Mexico, the first stage consists in a three-year program, after which the degree of LL.B. is awarded; the second stage consists in a one-year program, after which the LL.M. is awarded. Certain universities also offer a third stage, providing higher legal preparation; a J.D. is conferred upon completion of this program. In France legal education encompasses two two-year stages—general preparation (after which a diploma is received) and specialized training (after which the student becomes a licensed practitioner of law). The title of doctor of law is conferred on those who complete an additional, more advanced program of study and write a dissertation.


Shebanov, A. F. luridicheskie vysshye uchebnye zavedeniia. Moscow, 1963.
Ocherki po istorii iuridicheskikh nauchnykh uchrezhdenii v SSSR. Moscow, 1976.
Eisenmann, C. The University Teaching of Social Sciences. Paris, 1973.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
Full browser ?