Studying Law in Germany
An article by Antonia Kelloms. Cooperation from: Oliver Burgard
That is what it's about
Are politicians allowed to restrict the right to demonstrate during a pandemic? Are upload filters for online videos an attack on freedom of expression? Lawyers deal with topical questions like these. While doing so they have different tasks: Lawyers file lawsuits or defend clients, prosecutors represent the prosecution, judges make judgements, ministerial lawyers draft laws, commercial lawyers review contracts and advise companies.
They all undergo the same training and deal primarily with the three areas of law: civil law, criminal law and public law. In addition, there are basics in legal history and comparative jurisprudence, sometimes also in sociology of law. It also deals with procedural law, which mainly regulates how a court case is conducted. Students solve case studies ranging from inheritance disputes to constitutional grievances to theft, robbery and murder.
This is how the course runs
At the beginning, the contents of the degree course are determined. The students deal with the three legal areas of civil law, criminal law and public law and later choose an additional focus such as European or international law, labour law, family law or law of succession.
For the first legal examination (state examination and university examination) after eight semesters at the earliest, 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. After the first law examination, a two-year traineeship follows in which students gets to know the work in civil, criminal and administrative law. To do so, the trainee lawyers work for example, at an administrative or district court, at the public prosecutor's office, with a law agency and with an authority such as the police. Another station can be chosen freely, it can also be abroad.
The legal training concludes with the second state law examination. Only those who have passed both examinations are "fully qualified lawyers" and can work as independent lawyers, public prosecutors, judges or in the higher administrative service. Important to know: Some faculties offer a bachelor's degree in law, some also offer law and economics as a combination subject. But you can't become a judge, prosecutor or lawyer with that. "For a career in law, you definitely need both state exams," says Tiziana Chiusi, a professor at Saarland University and chair of the German Law Faculty Association.
Typical questions raised within the subject
- When is a person legally competent?
- What distinguishes property from possession?
- When is a dismissal lawful?
- In what situation does a defendant have the right to a public defender?
- When is an action considered as sexual harassment?
- How is asylum law regulated in the European Union?
- Where are wind turbines permissible?
- When may the police check whether someone has used drugs?
The subject suits you,...
... you are interested in how to resolve social conflicts peacefully through the application of laws. This does not require memorisation, but analytical, logical thinking: "Law is as clearly structured as mathematics," Chiusi says. However, the subject is also very close to everyday life and legal work is associated with a lot of responsibility. "Lawyers' decisions can totally change people's lives, often involving individual liberty or a lot of money," Chiusi says.
Students deal with legal texts and commentaries and write their own texts in legal style. You should be able to handle stress and be disciplined, because you must repeat a lot of material before the exams.
Is there a numerus clausus?
About half of the law courses have admission restrictions, which is often in the two grade range.