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JD/MBA Blog Post

JD/MBAs share their candid thoughts about enrolling in the joint program, their experiences to date, and advice for prospective students



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Nikhil Abraham, JD/MBA '11
Co-Chair
, JD/MBA Association

I’ve been interested in the intersection of law and business since college.  As a Quantitative Economics major at Tufts University, I studied, among other things, econometrics, farming subsidy effects, and the economics of movie contracts.  I so enjoyed using economics as a tool to inform laws that after college I worked for Analysis Group, an economic consulting firm that estimates the economic damage one firm's illegal act inflicts on other firms. I can talk rubber or vitamins for hours.  And in graduate school, I have continued to study the intersection of law and business, as an Olin Fellow, Turnaround Management Research Fellow, and Kauffman Fellow.  The decision to pursue a JD/MBA was easy for me, but if you are thinking about pursuing the joint degree ask yourself  i) what is the structure and format of a JD/MBA program, and ii) what are the costs and benefits.

Structure and Format

University of Chicago allows you to structure you jd/mba in various ways. You can take

a) 1 year of law, 1 year of business and 2 years of mixed classes,
b) 1 year of business, 1 year of law, and 2 years of mixed classes, or
c) 2 years of law, 1 year of business, and 1 year of mixed classes (recommended and most popular).

The options have their strengths and weaknesses but Option (c) allows you to apply for the MBA program before graduate school, during your first year of law school, and during your second year of law school.

Costs and Benefits

Costs

The cost of earning the dual degree is the extra tuition cost of earning both versus just one degree plus lost wages. No job requires both a JD and an MBA, so JD/MBAs either pursue a legal job or non-legal job. For students who pursue a job at a law firm, the extra cost of the dual degree is $230,000 ($50k tuition + $160k forgone 1st year legal associate salary + $20k bonus). For students who pursue a non-legal job, for example in consulting or banking, the extra cost of the dual degree is ~$500,000 ($100k for two years of tuition, $400k for 2 years of forgone salary).

Benefits

While the costs are significant, the value of the JD/MBA can exceed the costs. The major categories of value include

Twice the education 

Students at The Law School are able to take up four non-legal classes, but enrolling in the MBA allows students to take classes in greater depth than would be possible by being just a law student. For example, to take "Cases in Financial Management", a student has to have already taken Investments and Corporate Finance.  Similarly to take "Entrepreneurship Finance and Private Equity" some professors require that student have already taken Microeconomics, Investments, and Corporate Finance. Because of the prerequisites, law students cannot take both higher level classes. 

Additionally, classes at both schools provide students with a strong practical foundation to tackle subject areas that involve corporate law, antitrust, entrepreneurship, and private equity/venture capital.  One of the most valuable legal classes I took was a class on deal term sheets where we explored the stories behind the genesis of each term. For example, VC/PE term sheets often give management/founders equity that vests over time. This ensures these people do not stop work on the idea, and then come back 5 years later after the work is done and claim equity ownership. Understanding this directly impacted my valuation analysis for business school class case where the founders would not agree to cliff vesting clauses. Additionally, knowing the arguments for and against each term, and what questions to ask can be immensely valuable, and not asking these questions can be incredibly costly  - just ask Eduardo Saverin (If you are not sure who he is, it only further proves the point).

Internship/Career flexibility

A traditional JD/MBA allows students to pursue three different summer internships. Personally, I have explored a law firm, an investment bank, and a management consulting firm.  Similarly, other JD/MBAs have secured internships in judicial chambers, government agencies, pro-bono/non-profit organizations, corporate in-house legal divisions, hedge funds, and private equity companies.

Each internship opportunity allows students to sample the experience, and judge whether the experience was a good personal fit.

In-School/Alumni Network

The business and law school network is going to be the most valuable and hardest to value benefit of the joint degree.

In 1998, John Rodkin (JD/MBA '05) founded Flyswat with Ray Krouse (MBA '99), and in 2000 sold the business to NBC Interactive for $120 million. Similarly, in 2009 Bump Technologies was founded by two Chicago Booth students. The app they built was the 1 billionth downloaded app from the Apple App Store, and the company received a $3 million investment from Sequoia Capital, one of the most successful VC firms in the US, at a $10 million valuation.

A classmate or professor may be a potential friend, business partner, or future senator and the joint degree increases your chances for making those connections. Undoubtedly that has value, even if it varies widely from individual to individual.

Conclusion

The joint degree is not for everyone, but for some students the combination can be immensely valuable. Speaking to as many people as possible in both business and law school will help you decide whether the JD/MBA is for you. Continue the conversation by connecting with us on the University of Chicago JD/MBA blog


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