Top marks in Bavarian law exam/16 Punkte im Staatsexamen Jura

Interview in der Süddeutschen mit Sonja Pelikan, die die besten Ergebnisse in der Bayerischen Staatsprüfung für Juristen sei 1983 schaffte (über

The Süddeutsche Zeitung has an interview in German with Sonja Pelikan, who passed the first state examination for law students, which tests the academic part of law studies (roughly equivalent to British LL.B. or U.S. J.D.) with extraordinarily high marks.

My impression of German law exams is founded on nothing but hearsay. I have the feeling they seem like a lottery to the candidates. Whatever they learn at university, it is not how to pass these exams. Sonja seems to have done it by doing dozens of practice tests. She says that in the last year before the exam she did over a hundred 5-hour tests.

Sonja thinks the exam is so difficult because the candidates have to know everything they ever learnt in law school at the date of the exam, whereas in other subjects you can complete parts of the course earlier.

She did use a crammer (Repetitor – see earlier entry here) – a different one for each subject.

Sonja wants to do a doctorate and then the practical part of her training and get at least 9 points in the second state exam. After that she will be a Volljuristin or fully-qualified lawyer. She can apply even now to be called a Diplom-Juristin. This is a fairly new thing – giving someone who has come at least as far as an LL.B. student a qualification.

6 thoughts on “Top marks in Bavarian law exam/16 Punkte im Staatsexamen Jura

  1. Congrats to Sonja. But does that mean she and her 1983 predecessor are or will necessarily be good, efficient and PR-gifted lawyers able to deal effectively and compassionately with clients and office staff? Experience tells me prize-winning law exam candidates don’t always make the best, approachable lawyers.

    The mismatch between legal education and actual practice is a source of concern in a lot of countries. Oz and N.Z. have closed the gap with ‘hands-on’ time-limit watching, client-interviewing and correspondence exercises led by practitioners and judges.

    UK Solicitors, as sole practitioners, are required to keep proper and separate books of client & office funds account. Bar students in Eng. & Wales now have to take advocacy, negotiation & conference (interviewing in chambers)skills that are video-recorded using actors in set pieces as Solicitors & lay-clients. The performances – of students who may not have English as their native tongue – are then graded.

    Sonja is asked what she would change about the exam and mentions Tutorien. If she means tutorials, then this doesn’t sound like a root-&-branch overhaul or improvement on face-to-face PR skills.

  2. I am bit confused. I read the article, but it does not seem to provide the answer to my question. The way I see it, she has not finished her “full” law degree yet, which means that her current title is not equivalent to an LLB or JD. Under the new system, she is now entitled to call herself Diplom-Juristin, and that’s great, but it’s not the equivalent of a full LLB degree yet (for an LLB or JD opens to the door to taking the bar exam and, upon passing of the bar exam, legal practice).

  3. Werner:
    It’s similar in this way:

    U.S.: (college) + law school > J.D.
    Normally: some periods of practical experience in vacations
    Then: optional bar review course > bar exam: attorney

    England and Wales: law at university > LL.B.
    Then: period as trainee, period studying for final exams (solicitor or barrister) > final exam:
    solicitor or barrister
    (This is simplified because you are a barrister before the end of traineeship and because you can become a lawyer with a non-law degree)

    Germany: law at university > 1st state exam: in some cases you can now call yourself Diplom-Jurist
    Then: period as trainee (Referendariat), final exams: Volljurist (Assessor, Befähigung zum Richteramt)

    As far as I understand Canada, law study usually follows a couple of years of general study, as in the USA, and thereafter the situation is usually similar to that in England and Wales.

    The academic stage looks like the LL.B. to me. There is a difference to the J.D. in that you’re not required to do the practical stage of training there.

    There are some differences in Scotland and Austria too.

  4. I agree that Sonja’s criticism is rather superficial. I suppose she has no reason to criticize the system! Tutorien is just like a plaster on a wound, I think.I know there is a lot of discussion about reform of law studies, but I don’t know much about it. There are books on how to write contracts appearing on the market now, which indicates a change! And actually, the literature available for the second state exam is often fairly practical, so I assume something is being done.

    About the best students not necessarily being the best lawyers – I agree, but I tend to think they won’t necessarily be the worst, i.e. some will be good lawyers. The worst thing seems to be that for many law jobs in Germany, *only* the marks/grades count, and they are particularly uninformative in law.

  5. I agree, Margaret, with your LLB academic-stage analogy and the Solicitor & Barrister vocational-stage training analysis.

    There are some countries, like Spain & Mex., where law graduates can jump straíght off into the deep end of practice without any vocational ‘conversion’ course (approx. zweites juristisches Staatsexamen) that is becoming prohibitively expensive in the UK – up to GBP 10,000 for a 9-month course. I hadn’t heard prohibitive COURSE cost was an issue in Germany.

    I also – maybe wrongly – assumed Sonja would be going into private practice. it occurred to me that many good law finalists in DE & AU go on to work at European or international supra-national institutions, in national government service or trade & industry.

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