Benefits of a Dual Degree: Law and MBA The Buzz


Joint degrees are popular options for college students. Becoming well educated in more than one subject creates more career opportunities for graduates. Business degrees are common "second" degrees because business know-how is a strong asset in any field.

The MBA is one of the most popular second degrees among law school students and graduates. Knowing both law and business is seen as a real asset in the corporate world. Many law firms and businesses have become very interested in graduates with strong knowledge in both fields.

Several colleges and universities in North America are recognizing this need. And in turn, they are offering joint degrees in both business and law, including the popular JD (JD stands for juris doctor -- this is a basic law degree) and MBA.

Combining business and law reflects the real world. The MBA helps students understand the world of business and enhances the practice of law. The JD helps students with the laws that govern businesses.

John Gotanda is a professor of law and the director of the JD and MBA program at the Villanova University law school. "We have definitely seen an increase in students. And I believe that this trend will continue," says Gotanda.

"Today, lawyers are increasingly choosing careers in corporations and businesses. In addition, government regulation and ever-growing international trade have generated a demand for individuals who possess both legal and business skills," he adds.

According to Gotanda, some of the many career options for dual degrees are:

  • Mergers and acquisitions law
  • In-house corporate law
  • Insurance and securities underwriting
  • Securities regulation
  • Investment banking
  • Venture capital formation
  • Corporate litigation

Mike Deturbide is an associate professor of law and the director of the Law and Technology Institute at Dalhousie University. Dalhousie offers an LLB (that's the Latin abbreviation for bachelor of laws) and MBA program. This allows students to get an LLB and an MBA in four years.

"Employers recognize the benefits of hiring employees with both degrees. Particularly the law degree," says Deturbide.

"A business that hires a manager with legal training saves time and money. That person can identify problems before they arise and structure business affairs to better manage risk. Legal skills are very useful in business."

"There are those who know the business world, those who know the law, and those who know both," says Steven Cohen, an attorney with a JD and an MBA.

"A good businessperson is respected for his or her knowledge and ability. A good lawyer is often feared for the knowledge and abilities they possess. When you put these together, you create an awesome power -- a person who truly understands the law and knows how to use its strength in the business world," says Cohen.

He also says that his MBA has given him the tools to create a successful business plan. "I've worked toward creating some uniqueness in my services. So far, my strategic plan is working, although it does need constant tweaking."

In most joint degree programs, students can earn both degrees in much less time than it would take to earn them separately. This is because many of the courses count toward both degrees.

The JD and MBA program generally takes three to five years to complete. Students with an undergraduate business background should be able to complete it during the required three years of law school.

Because law school is so much work, it is common for students to spend the first year of the program in law school alone. Then the business courses begin over the first summer.

Courses taken in the various JD and MBA programs may include entrepreneurship, finance, international business law, tax law and real estate.

Taking more courses means paying for more courses. So a dual degree can be more expensive than the usual single one.

But the high tuition is balanced by the high salaries for law and business graduates.

"Earning an MBA degree on its own is quite an undertaking," says Cohen. "It encompasses the learning of organizational theory, marketing, finance, economics and strategic planning.

"Earning a law degree takes on a whole new approach to learning," he adds. "Law is not taught in a 'how-to' fashion. Instead, the student has to [learn] by reading cases. The learning process is quite different from what most are accustomed to.

"Then comes the bar exam," adds Cohen. "Perhaps the most difficult exam we know, excluding the medical field. But when it's all over, the combination degree is feared by most. I have even heard some refer to those with both degrees as 'dangerous.'"

Links

Washington College of Law
Check out the specific courses in the JD and MBA program

MBA.com
Info on the MBA