Some of you may be considering doing the JD/MBA – a dual degree program in Law and Management – and wondering whether the extra investment of your time and money will be worthwhile. Let me lay out how the program works, then discuss the question of value.
Students who are interested in the JD/MBA at the University of Toronto need to apply and be admitted to both programs separately in order to enroll in the joint degree program. The JD is usually a three-year program and the MBA is a two-year program, but doing them together condenses the time commitment to a “mere” four years! The layout looks like this:
Year 1: the regular first year of law school
Year 2: the regular first year of the MBA program
Years 3 & 4: electives from both faculties
No work experience is required to be admitted to the JD/MBA, and strong academic performance in any undergraduate degree will suffice – no business background is required.
Obviously, attending school for four years instead of two or three years is going to significantly increase your tuition fees. Why would you want to spend more of your time and money when either one of these degrees will lead to excellent job prospects? One of our alumni, an entrepreneur who helped us out in a panel discussion on the JD/MBA program last month, summed up the two major advantages of completing the dual program as the “substance” and the “signifier.” In other words, it’s all about what you actually know, and what people believe you know.
On the “substance” side, absorbing the content of both of these intense degrees will give you expertise in two different fields, which can be extremely valuable. The knowledge you gain from earning both a JD and MBA certainly opens up far more doors than either option alone, and being equipped with the knowledge to face any problem from both a legal and business perspective will be useful no matter where your career takes you after graduation.
With regards to the “signifier”, having both a “JD” and “MBA” after your name on your resume or business card speaks volumes to recruiters, colleagues and clients. Whether it’s true or not, let’s face it – it makes you look exceptionally intelligent! (And honestly, if you can get admitted to both programs, you probably are quite bright, indeed.) You will be thought of as someone who can add significant value to a law firm or any organization, and this increases your marketability. I have heard graduates speak of how the perception that they were sharp and that they held a wide body of knowledge helped them to secure their jobs, and then to connect better with senior partners or management, who have sought them out for their added expertise.
Leaning towards law school?
Let’s look at this from the perspective of someone who is leaning more towards law school than business school. No matter whether you want to end up in Corporate Law or Mergers & Acquisitions, fields where in-depth knowledge of how business works would be an obvious asset, or another type of law which may not be as obviously connected, gaining business knowledge is only going to help you to have a better understanding of your clients’ business and the way the world functions. For an in-house lawyer, understanding the other functional areas of the company really provides a huge advantage, especially if you aspire to move up in the organization. For a law student, we’re talking about just one additional year of school here. When you consider that Rotman has $30,000 scholarships guaranteed to go to the top 20 students coming from U of T Law, and we waive the GMAT for students who scored at least 165 on the LSAT, applying for the JD/MBA is really a “no-brainer”!
Also, keep in mind that studying and practicing law are different experiences. There are some people who love law school but don’t enjoy practicing and end up leaving the profession. The JD degree leads to a narrow range of job possibilities, while the MBA is quite broad and flexible, applicable to any organization which requires management and leadership skills. Lawyers-to-be can consider the MBA not just a degree which will help them be better lawyers in the immediate future, but as insurance which they may want to leverage a bit later in their career. While one more year of school may seem like a lot at this stage in your life when you’ve been in school every year since early childhood, you don’t want to be kicking yourself just five or ten years down the road when you realize how useful that MBA would be but you don’t want to leave your high-paying, demanding job to do it; there is a good chance you will have a mortgage to pay and mouths to feed. It’s much more difficult to go back to school later, believe me.
Leaning towards business school?
From the perspective of someone who is leaning more towards business school than law school, enrolling in the JD/MBA would mean an additional two years of school over the MBA. While it is possible to apply to this program from the first year of the MBA, it is pretty rare to have someone sign up for the more generalist MBA and then choose to double the time they spend in school to also get a JD. The entrepreneur I mentioned earlier certainly finds that his legal knowledge is an asset in running his business, but for most people, unless you actually want to practice law, the MBA might just do the trick to meet your career aspirations. Having said that, getting a legal education teaches students to think critically, and is never going to hurt your career. My comments above about the substance and the signifier still apply, and perhaps the dual degree will help you to achieve what you want to achieve.
All in all, I truly believe the value individuals get over the course of their lives from the substance and signifier derived from the JD/MBA from a great school like the University of Toronto far outweighs the time and money spent in pursuing the dual degree. Please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or would like to discuss the program!