This article is an introduction to Greek Law Schools, including useful facts about admissions, programme structure and graduate prospects.
Greece follows the continental European tradition of a civil law system, influenced by both German and French law. At a university level, aspiring law practitioners are given the opportunity to familiarise themselves with a wide range of prominent topics and questions from all legal fields, and observe the developments in their country’s legislation.
Three of the Greek public universities offer a law degree: the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (UoA), Aristotle University of Thessaloniki (AUTh) and Democritus University of Thrace (DUTh).
High school graduates in Greece are admitted into higher education on the basis of their total score at national level entrance examinations (‘Pan-Hellenic’ exams), which are held once a year in early May. Courses of gravity for Law School admissions are Ancient Greek and History, while candidates also have to sit for exams in Modern Greek, Latin, Greek Literature, and in an additional course of their choice from the high school curriculum (Math, Physics, Biology or History II). After the release of the examination results, applications are submitted centrally through the Ministry of Education.
International students also submit their applications through the Ministry in May, and later take their Pan-Hellenic exams in September. For those who have not attended a Greek school, an exam in ‘Modern Greek’ is vital to their admission.
Admissions to all three Law Schools are highly competitive; only candidates who rank among the top 5% nationwide in their Pan-Hellenic exams are guaranteed entrance. For example, in 2015 UoA accepted 420 students who had scored 18.223/20.000 at their Pan-Hellenic exams, while AUTh accepted 370 students who had scored 18.058/20.000 or higher, and DUTH 420 who had scored 17.546 or higher.
During their first semester, students of all law faculties study ‘Introduction to Legal Science’, which aims to shape their legal thinking through a presentation of the basic principles of law. A ‘Legal History’ course is also mandatory; the course focuses on Ancient Greek and Roman Law, and the way they have affected modern legal concepts. According to Konstantinos Koulelis, a first year student at DUTh, “these courses help us understand the development of our laws from back then to today, and give us a general idea of how to form legal arguments properly.”
All junior students are taught the key principles of the Greek political system in ‘Constitutional Law’, which is considered the most demanding course of the first semester. ‘Administrative Law’ is offered in the second semester to complete the students’ knowledge of the inner workings and organisation of the Greek State.
UoA and AUTh introduce their first year students to ‘General Principles of Civil Law’, a third semester course in DUTh. ‘Public International Law’ is a mandatory course in all universities, but DUTh also offers ‘European Union Law’ in the second semester, while UoA and AUTh choose to begin ‘Criminal Law’ and ‘Commercial Law’ courses. All faculties offer a ‘Family Law’ course during the first year.
Each faculty structures its curriculum differently throughout the remaining 6 semesters, but all teach a wide range of similar courses from all legal areas. ‘Contract Law’, ‘Law of Obligations’, ‘Labour Law’, ‘Law of Succession’, ‘Constitutional Freedoms’, ‘Private International Law’, ‘Tax Law’, ‘Law of Industrial and Intellectual Property’, ‘Company Law’ and ‘Consumer Protection’ are among each law school’s core modules. Procedural courses regarding civil, administrative and criminal courts are also offered.
Most compulsory modules are taught in lectures, as well as in tutorials, through which students acquire a deeper understanding of the topics presented in the lecture. For Elen Kharatsidis, a senior AUTh student, the tutorials serve as a good revision. “Through case studies the tutors help us go over the relevant theory once more, and answer any questions we might have. It is a good preparation for exams.”
Further, each Faculty organises a number of educational visits to the local Civil and Martial Courts, and to the Mental Hospital and Rehabilitation Centre, among others. Katerina Hatzidaki, a recent AUTh graduate, recalls a visit to the Courthouse where she and her fellow ‘Criminal Procedure’ students attended a criminal trial: “Our professor himself was litigating, and I could see how he applied the theory he had taught us during class. It was a turning point for me; I realised how important it is to know not only the relevant law, but also how to interpret it in a way that will convince the Court to decide on your client’s favour.”
In the course of their studies, students have the opportunity to enrich their knowledge with elective modules and seminars from all departments. “AUTh allows us to choose from a pool of 125 modules, as specialised or as general and all-encompassing as one might want, taught in four different languages, and from a wide variety of legal fields,” reports Karolina Zamanakou. “This gives us the opportunity to test the waters in various specialties early on and see which one we have an inclination towards. Personally, modules in the commercial law department like ‘Electronic Commercial Law’ and ‘Regulation of Financial Markets’ helped me realise that I am interested in a career in corporate law and finance.”
Among the many elective modules offered by all three Schools each academic year, there are ‘Economic Criminal Law’, ‘Political Science’, ‘International Criminal Law’, ‘Maritime Law’, ‘International Humanitarian Law’, ‘Sociology of Law’. These are often based on student presentations and subsequent debate, training students in legal research and writing. In DUTh, students can obtain a specialised degree, if 5 of their elective courses are allocated to one department on the basis of their subject matter.
In the final two semesters, all three universities offer advanced courses in ‘Civil Law’, ‘Civil Procedure’, ‘Public Law and Administrative Procedure’, ‘Commercial Law’ and ‘Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure’, while UoA and DUTh offer an additional advanced course in ‘International Law’. These modules synthesise the individual key disciplines of law, aiming to provide students with a deeper insight into each subject matter, through problem questions and case studies of controversial topics, usually debated in the Greek legal theory and practice. For Angeliki Pantzartzidi, a 5th year student in AUTh, “through the Advanced Courses, students learn to recognise and handle the complexity that is the application of the knowledge they have acquired during their years of study. It is a good opportunity to test ourselves, and prepare for legal practice.”
Teaching language is Greek, but all faculties also offer courses in English, German and French.
There are two exam periods; January/February for fall semester courses, and June for the spring semester ones. Re-sit exams for both semesters are held in September. The assessment may be in the form of written or oral examination. Each module is marked on a scale of zero to ten (0-10), with a minimum pass mark of five (5).
For the award of a law degree (LL.B or in Greek ‘Ptychion’), students must obtain 240 credits (ECTS), during a period of 8 semesters (4 academic years), at minimum. Successful examination in 41 courses, 31 mandatory and 10 elective, is necessary to obtain 240 ECTS in UoA; 50 courses, 37 mandatory and 13 elective in AUTH; and 49 courses, 43 mandatory and 6 elective, in DUTH.
To practice law in Greece, law school graduates must work as trainee lawyers at a law firm for 18 months, before sitting for the Bar Exam. Successful candidates acquire a licence to practice law, and become members of their local Bar Association.
This article was originally published in the tenth issue of the magazine, which can be accessed here.