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Legal Studies in Germany

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Date27 Apr 2022

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If you have already completed a law degree in your home country when you first came to Germany, it is usually difficult to find an immediate employment here. This is because, for objective reasons, your education cannot be fully recognised in Germany (in your country you have studied the national law of your country).  

This is a problem that many lawyers have to deal with. But you should not get upset, because there are several ways of solving them. The most important thing is to decide what you would like to do. By deciding by elimination (i.e. what you do not really want to do) you can find out which route is best for you. 

Possibility 1. Working as a lawyer, prosecutor or judge 

If you have the status of a lawyer in your home country, you can have your qualifications recognized in Germany and be allowed to practice law or give legal advice only under the law of your home country. 

But if you do not have this, or if you do not want to be limited to the law of your home country, or if you want to work as a prosecutor or a judge in Germany, then you will have to study again. This means that you start at a law school at a German university, which ends with the First State Examination (Erstes Staatsexamen). That is a really difficult thing to do.  For this final exam alone, students usually prepare for one to one and a half years. About a third of candidates fail the exam regularly. There are 2 to 3 attempts and in case of final failure, the study of law (in the classical sense) is closed forever. It's a very harsh system, but it fosters focus, diligence, perseverance and stamina. It also prevents you from neglecting your studies. 

If you pass the First State Examination you have the title of a qualified lawyer and can thereby complete your law studies. However, you will still not be able to work as a lawyer, prosecutor or judge. In order to practise these professions, you will have to enrol in the so called Referendariat. It is a civil service in the form of a public-law educational relationship and consists of practical modules in various judicial bodies (prosecutor's offices, courts, state and local government authorities) and in the lawyers office. At the end of the Referendariat, you have to take the Second State Examination (Zweites Staatsexamen), which is even more difficult than the First State Examination. It is a big test that not everybody can pass. But if you pass it, you can finally work as a lawyer, prosecutor or judge in Germany.

This is only a brief description of a legal education. It is very difficult and risky. Even for Germans themselves, for whom German is a native language. 

Possibility 2. Working in fields related to law 

In Germany you can also study for a Master of Law (LL.M.) at a university or for a Bachelor of Law (LL.B) in business law at the High School of Applied Sciences (Fachhochschule). With this education you will be one step closer to the German labour market and can find work in the field of free economy (in companies, banks, sometimes even in municipalities). The most important thing is the knowledge of German language and work experience. Try to do a lot of practical training during your studies and, if possible, find a steady job as a student-employee (Werkstudent) in a field suitable for your studies. 

Written by: Nikita Borisenko

Cover Photo: Mikhail Pavstyuk - Unsplash

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#work as a lawyer in germany#state examination#legal studies in germany#recognition in germany