As the legal job market continues to evolve and law students face greater job competition on graduation, you may want to consider different ways that you can stand out, such as adding more degrees and skills to your resume. While many lawyers choose to go back to law school for an LLM after they graduate, others decide to pursue a joint JD/MBA degree program while still students to better leverage the time they spend in law school. However, earning a JD is a great challenge on its own and adding another degree to the mix isn't for everyone. There are many factors you should consider before choosing a joint degree program so it’s important to do your homework before making your decision.
What Does A JD/MBA Program Look Like?
Typically, a joint degree program adds an additional year to law school, although some law schools, like Columbia Law School, offer accelerated three-year joint degree programs that won’t drag out law school any longer than needed (or desired). Many JD/MBA programs keep your law courses intact during your first year. For example, you may take all of your 1L courses during your first year, followed by a semester or year of business courses and another of law courses, or some blend of both. Keep in mind that some classes, such as corporate law or bankruptcy law, may give you overlapping credit for both degrees.
It’s also important to note that most schools offering joint degrees require a separate application for each school and have a separate admissions process. This means that you will likely have multiple applications to submit and that you would need to be accepted by both schools in order to participate in a joint degree program.
JD/MBA: Pros and Cons
Adding another layer of study to law school can definitely add to the stress and challenge of law school, not to mention the additional costs of tuition and books and the time that your MBA program may take away from law school pursuits. This loss of time may prove to be the biggest challenge with a joint degree program. After all, many of the professional benefits that you get from law school occur outside of the classroom, such as:
- Law journals
- Student organizations
- Networking events (symposiums, guest speakers)
So, in this sense, adding an MBA to your JD can prove to be more of a distraction especially if you’re not on the same track as your fellow law students and are pulled into the business orbit for a semester or a year.
That being said, there are also many upsides. For example, as a joint degree student, you are building up networks in both business and legal circles. Should you choose to practice law after you graduate, unlike many of your law school peers, you’re going to have relationships within the business world, both among your MBA peers and among your business school alumni networks.
In addition, if you’re planning on opening a solo practice after you graduate, you’ll have the business training to help you succeed. In fact, it’s often a lack of such business training that keeps lawyers from opening their own firms. Having a JD and an MBA also opens up greater job opportunities as you can more easily transition between the business and legal worlds. Your business knowledge and relationships would also make you an attractive hire for law firms and also may help to you better understand and represent any future business clients.
If you're still weighing the pros and cons of whether to get a joint JD/MBA, there are online quizzes that can help you determine whether business school would be a good fit. Forbes also has some helpful information and resources, including tips for applying to business schools.
Getting a JD/MBA: Next Steps
There are many decisions that go into law school, including whether or not to add to your workload with a joint degree. With all of the questions you'll face, the ultimate answers will depend on your career goals. As you set those goals and begin your professional journal, FindLaw is here to help. Find out more at FindLaw for Law Students.