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Studying Law in Germany

Lawyers deal with law and order
An article by Antonia Kelloms

Studying Law in Germany
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Law

That is what it’s about

Should the Bundesliga pay for the major police operations at football matches? Is a burka ban constitutionally viable? Do the owners of old-style diesel cars have grounds for claims for damages against the automobile industry? Lawyers deal with topical questions like these. While doing so they have very different tasks: Lawyers file lawsuits or defend clients, prosecutors represent the prosecution, judges make judgements, ministerial lawyers draft laws. But they all go through the same training. Through laws, students solve case studies ranging from inheritance disputes to constitutional grievances to theft, robbery and murder. As a lawyer you have to think about conflicts of interest and using legal methods, find out who is in the right. Law students learn how the legal system is structured and what constitutes the three main areas: civil law, criminal law and public law. In addition, there are foundations in legal history, legal philosophy and procedural law, which regulates, among other things, how a legal process runs.

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This is how the course runs

During the first semesters, the contents of the study are stipulated. Only later, in addition to the three main areas mentioned above, will each select a focus such as European or international law, labour law, family law or energy law. Some universities have many focal points, while some only offer three or four. For the first legal examination (consisting of state examination and university examination) after at the earliest seven semesters, one must also demonstrate competence in a foreign language and a total of three months internship, for example as a lawyer or in a court. This is followed by a two-year traineeship in which students gets to know the work in civil, criminal and administrative law. To do so, the trainee lawyers go for example, to an administrative or district court, to the public prosecutor's office, to a lawyer and to an authority such as the police. Another placement can be chosen freely. The conclusion of the legal traineeship is the Second State Law Examination. It is accepted by the State Examination Office. Please note: Only those who have passed both examinations, is a so-called full-time lawyer and can work as a lawyer, prosecutor, judge or higher administrative service. Please note: Anyone who holds a bachelor's degree in law does not pass a state examination. With this degree, you cannot become a judge or self-employed lawyer, but work for example in the administration or in a legal department.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • What distinguishes property from ownership?
  • When does a defendant have the right to a public defender?
  • Who is allowed to file a constitutional complaint?
  • When is a person legally competent?
  • What distinguishes murder from manslaughter?
  • Where are wind turbines permitted?
  • When has sexual harassment occurred?
  • When is a dismissal lawful?

The subject suits you,...

...if you can think abstractly and express yourself precisely. If you study law, you have to deal with complicated legal texts and comments and write coherent texts yourself. The language of lawyers takes some getting used to. "Many think that law is dry," says Joachim Lege, professor at the University of Greifswald and chairman of the Faculty of German Lawyers. "But that's a big mistake, because the subject touches every aspect of life." For example, copyright law determines whether you're allowed to stream a film for free.

Is there a numerus clausus?

More than half of the law degree programs have an NC. Some higher education institutions require very good grades in German, mathematics and foreign languages. Selection tests are not common.

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