Thinking about a JD/MBA joint degree?

Posted by Ann Levine | April 6, 2009

Just as I was composing great material for a post about the benefits of obtaining a joint JD/MBA degree, the Legal Authority blog beat me to it and posted a great one.

I’ll just add to it by posting some remarks from two people I interviewed on the subject, Lisa Cummings, President of the International Association of MBAs and author of The MBA Blog and Dean Beck Taylor of Samford University Brock School of Business.

Lisa Cummings wrote the following assessment of the benefits of obtaining and MBA and provided advice for those considering the degree: For some business enthusiasts, it’s tough to decide whether to pursue a JD or an MBA. Both provide an obvious depth of business acumen. Having earned my MBA, the advice I offer is to have three to five years of work experience before starting an MBA program. If you enroll right after undergraduate work, courses feel purely academic with little to stick to. I am a fan of Executive MBA programs for that reason. They allow you to apply the concepts immediately in your workplace.

Three Benefits Unique to an MBA Degree

  1. Credibility for The Executive Suite. Of course, you can earn a c-level post without an MBA. Still, it’s a price to entry for many jobs. Having MBA credentials removes roadblocks at companies that highly value the degree.
  2. Business Contacts. We all have a specialty. Whether it is accounting, finance, marketing, operations, law, or HR, we can get stuck with a narrow network of colleagues. MBA programs help us develop deep working relationships with colleagues across all disciplines. Building a rich business network pays big dividends throughout your career if you nurture it.
  3. Mobility and Access to Jobs. Most large companies have a University Relations (UR) department inside of their recruiting group. MBA graduates are targeted by these University Relations recruiters for leadership track roles. UR job fairs and recruiting events make it easier to land a new career. Having an MBA also gives you mobility because employers view the breadth of knowledge as transferable to other disciplines. In short, you’re viewed as a business generalist rather than a narrow specialist.

Three Things You Won’t Get With an MBA

  1. Interpersonal Prowess. Many hiring and firing decisions are based on behaviors that are not taught in business school. Few MBA programs focus on influencing and communication skills.
  2. Fast ROI. If your two year MBA program costs $50,000 and you’re leaving a $75,000 job to go to school full time, you just ‘paid’ $200,000 for the MBA. If you return to an $80,000 job, it takes a lot of years to break even financially. For most MBAs, the financial reward portion is a long term play.
  3. Doctoral Level Stature. No MBA can call herself a ‘doctor’ on her business cards. If you like the ring of that term, or if you want a career in academia, the JD may be a better route for you.

Below are the contents of my interview with Beck A. Taylor, Ph.D., Dean & Professor of Economics, Brock School of Business, Samford University Between the J.D. and the MBA, would you say one degree was more marketable than the other? In what way?

The demand for a lot of professional positions is down significantly because of the current economic recession. Law firms and corporations are curtailing hiring right now, so it is not a great time to come out of school with either degree. That said, most MBA programs are 2-3 years long, and JD programs are 3 years, so by that time, hopefully we will be out of this mess.

2. What are the benefits of a JD/MBA joint degree and why did Samford feel it’s an important addition to the university’s curriculum?

Business knowledge and skills are important to today’s lawyer, especially in the area of corporate law, and legal knowledge is important to many business managers. The two degrees complement one another very well. Additionally, lawyers who expect to be in practice for themselves one day will need solid business skills to run their organizations. Samford University decided to marry two great schools, Cumberland and Brock, to offer the joint JD-MBA for precisely those reasons.

3. Are there benefits to obtaining one degree and then the other versus a joint degree program?

How long do you want to be a student? Once you’ve committed to taking the plunge and spending 3 years out of the job market, you might as well get both degrees. At Samford, an industrious student can obtain the joint degree in 3 years, the same amount of time it would take to finish a basic law school curriculum. Students can accomplish this because of some creative scheduling and the sharing of some courses between the two programs.

4. What kind of students will benefit in the marketplace with both degrees? What careers will these students be likely to pursue?

Corporate lawyers or those who decide to open their own practices benefit greatly from the joint degree. Business students with law degrees can pursue any career of interest.

I welcome additional information, comments, and links about the benefits/detriments of obtaining a joint JD/MBA.

Categories: Picking Law Schools

2 Comments »


2 Responses to “Thinking about a JD/MBA joint degree?”

  1. cmsoria says:

    I have heard both negative and positive feedback about the marketability of JD/MBA programs. I am graduating in May, and felt my experience in such a program was completely positive. Not only does an MBA help a lawyer who plans to practice corporate law or represent businesses in general, an MBA degree also helps lawyers who are considering starting their own law firm. Many lawyers are solo practitioners.I consider the Joint degree useful, in that it’s given me a solid foundation and the confidence to know that I can start my own practice without feeling overwhelmed. Business school was actually the source of my initial interest in entrepreneurship, and for this I am grateful. I think my law career will be much more fulfilling because I have this flexibility.

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