LAW DEGREE


There are three universities that run the law degree (Master of Laws (oikeustieteen kandidaatin tutkinto / juris kandidatexamen)) which is necessary for becoming an advokat / asianajaja; the universities of Helsinki, Turku and Lapland. The minimum length of time for completion by a full time student is four and a half years, though generally it takes five to six years. In 1989 the average time of those graduating was six years.

st graduate laws degrees are the Licienciate in Laws (oikeustieteen lisensiaatin tutkinto / juris licentiatexamen) and the Doctor of Laws (oikeustieteen tohtorin tutkinto / juris doktorisexamen). There is also a lower law degree (Diploma in Law) (varanotaarin tutkinto / vicenotarieexamen), which takes two and a half to three years to complete.

The Swedish-speaking Åbo Akademi University offers the Bachelor of Laws programme. Turku and Lapland offer the full curriculum in Finnish. University of Helsinki has the national responsibility to educate Swedish-speaking lawyers, and at least three professorships at the faculty have to be reserved for instruction and research in Swedish. Presently, there are four Swedish chairs.[1]

The Statute regulating Higher Education of 1998 sets out the basic requirements of the Law degree. Each university is then free within the framework thus set out to decide its own curriculum. Legal education is governed more specifically by the Regulation on Law Degrees (Asetus oikeustieteellisistä tutkinnoista) of 1996.

The regulations leave the content and organization of studies to a great extent at the discretion of the universities. Some general guidelines are however included: the studies must be organized so that the oikeusnotaari degree can be taken in three years, oikeustieteen kandidaatti in five years (or two years after oikeusnotaari), oikeustieteen lisensiaatti in two years and oikeustieteen tohtori in four years (or two years after lisensiaatti).[1]

 

Before 1996 the degree system differed from the current one in that the first lower degree, varanotaari, was separated from the oikeustieteen kandidaatti programme. Students had to apply either to the varanotaari or oikeustieteen kandidaatti degree programmes, and a varanotaari could not move over to the oikeustieteen kandidaatti programme without having passed the entrance examination for that programme. The Regulation of 1996 changed the situation so that all students are now accepted directly to the oikeustieteen kandidaatti programme. Thus the oikeusnotaari is now basically identical with the three first years of the oikeustieteen kandidaatti curriculum. Although students may complete the oikeusnotaari degree, it is very exceptional for a student to finish his/her studies by that degree, since the requirement for both judicial office and advocature is completion of the oikeustieteen kandidaatti degree. Most positions in the civil or municipal service connected with legislation and law also require the oikeustieteen kandidaatti degree although the formal requirements have recently become more lax.

 

Students have to pass an entrance examination to gain admission to a Finnish law faculty. Each of the three faculties organize the examinations themselves, and the requirements vary between faculties. Contents of the examinations resemble each other in that for each the applicant has to read a number (ranging for the year 2000 from two to four) of books on legal topics. The exams are highly competitive; e.g. in 1999, ca 20 % of the applicants to Helsinki were admitted.

There are some minor exceptions to the obligation to pass the entrance examination, depending on the university. Most notably, Helsinki accepts outside the entrance examination applicants who have completed their upper secondary education in Finland and obtained the Swedish juris kandidat degree in Sweden. The faculties also accept to a varying extent applicants who have completed the varanotaari or oikeusnotaari degree.[2]

 

The general requirement for participation in the entrance examination is completed upper secondary level education: either matriculation examination, polytechnic degree, or higher vocantional degree. Those who have not completed their upper secondary education may apply for a special permit to participate. Applicants who have completed their upper secondary education abroad have to apply for a permit as well. The examination is conducted in Finnish and Swedish.



[1] Regulation on Law Degrees [Asetus oikeustieteellisistä tutkinnoista] (86/1996) chapter 1 (4).

[2] Although since the establishment of the oikeusnotaari degree programme it has only been an intermediate degree, those who had previously completed or were studying for the varanotaari degree got by the 1996 Regulation the right to move over to the oikeusnotaari degree programme. The arrangements concerning oikeusnotaarit are relevant to this group of students and, of course, to students graduating from Åbo Akademi University.


[1] Regulation on Law Degrees [Asetus oikeustieteellisistä tutkinnoista] (86/1996) chapter 1 (1-2); Regulation on Universities [Yliopistoasetus] (115/1998) chapter 5 (23). I am grateful to Laura Nyman for this update.