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Studying Law

Jurists deal with laws and rights.
An article by Kathrin Fromm in collaboration with Lisa Srikiow

Studying Law
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That is what it’s about

Lawyers plead the cases of their clients, prosecutors represent the public interest and judges pass sentences: jurists have very different tasks, but they all go through the same training. Using laws and other legal standards, students solve sample cases on topics ranging from inheritance disputes to maintenance payment claims to traffic offences. "For every case, students develop many questions that they break down into sub-questions and then systematically work through – this is the German legal approach," says Peter-Christian Müller-Graff, professor of Law at Heidelberg University. Students learn how the legal system is structured and how the three main areas – civil law, criminal law and public law – relate to one another. This is supplemented by basic principles such as legal history and legal philosophy. Procedural law which regulates, among other things, how a trial is conducted, also plays an important role. The content of the degree course is fixed in the first semesters. Students only choose a specialisation like tax law or family law later on, in addition to the three main areas of focus. At some universities, there are more than a dozen areas of specialisation whereas some only offer three or four. For the "Erste Juristische Prüfung" (first legal examination), which consists of the state examination and the university examination and is taken after at least eight semesters, students must also demonstrate practical experience totalling three months (for example at a law firm, in administration or at a court). This is followed by two years of judicial service training to familiarise students work in the fields of civil, criminal and administrative law. To complete this training, the trainees go to, for example, a district or regional court, the public prosecutor's office or a government authority. Another placement can be chosen freely. The legal training concludes with the second state law examination. Please note: only those who have passed both state examinations can work as lawyers, prosecutors or judges – in contrast to graduates of other Law degree courses that end with a Bachelor's or Master's.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

Law students must be able to think abstractly and precisely formulate their words. "Anyone who can summarise and interpret a 50-page story in just a few sentences is in the right degree course with Law," says Müller-Graff. Beginners often struggle with the very unique language used by jurists. Students first have to learn to read the complicated texts and write in the German legal style. "But all legal texts are referring to something concrete. Copyright law determines, for example, whether a film may be streamed for free or not," says Müller-Graff. Some universities have no course entrance restrictions for Law. Otherwise, grades in the range of one or two are required. Some higher education institutions require very good grades in German, mathematics and foreign languages.

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