October 17, 2005
The Value of a JD/MBA
Posted by Victor Fleischer

Two recent Harvard JD/MBAs survey alumni and discuss career paths in this interesting paper.  Recommended reading for anyone thinking about pursuing the joint degree.

Reading the comments of the alumni comparing the classroom experience at HLS and HBS further strengthens my resolve to employ the case study method more often.  I also need to continue to work on my ability to elicit quality student participation -- it's a real art form.   I generally get better participation (or at least more enthusiastic participation) when talking about case studies rather than theory + hypos.  There's no reason the law school classroom should be dull, alienating or repressive (as the classroom is described in this paper and elsewhere).

The paper also makes me wonder if law schools should support networking in the same way that B-schools do.  With so many of our alums ending up in-house or even on the business side of deals, must we continue to pretend that networking is trivial?

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Comments (5)

1. Posted by PaulNoonan on October 17, 2005 @ 15:24 | Permalink

I think networking support is very important, and I say this as someone who is "naturally poor" at the networking game, but has improved immensely since I've graduated. If you're one of the vast majority of people that comes out of lawschool without a job in hand, it's probably the most valuable skill that you can have. It's rough out here, and it's nice to know some people.

2. Posted by Vic Fleischer on October 17, 2005 @ 18:23 | Permalink

Even if you have a job coming out of law school, more likely than not you will change jobs within five years. I'm not sure why we expect these networking skills to develop organically --- if we lawyer-types were naturals at it, we might have gone to B-school (or at least JD/MBA) in the first place.

3. Posted by Michael Guttentag on October 21, 2005 @ 15:19 | Permalink

Vic. Thanks for posting this article. Sorry I didn’t see it sooner. Based on a sample of one (myself – Yale JD, Harvard MBA), I think some of the study’s findings reflect problems at Harvard Law School. Yale Law School was a much more welcoming and supportive and environment than Harvard Law School based on what I observed and what is suggested by this study.

That said, I concur with the finding that the Harvard Business School classroom learning environment is much more exhilarating than the law school class room. Part of this has to do with students – law school students are so much more passive than business school students. But part of it has to do with a commitment on the part of HBS to actively engage students in the classroom. This is evidenced by, among other things, professors committed to engaging students, grading that is heavily weighted toward classroom participation, classrooms that are laid out to allow students to hear, see, and converse with each others, student name cards required to be displayed in all classes, etc. So there are a lot of tools that would need to be put in place to really make the experiences comparable, but I certainly know that as a teacher I strive to emulate the active dialogue with and among students present at HBS, but not at either HLS or YLS.

4. Posted by Kate Litvak on October 21, 2005 @ 16:44 | Permalink

Mike: an HBS prof told me recently that he had an official record-taker sitting in all of his classes, recording every word that his students said. The prof then used those records as a major part of a final grade (something like 50%, if I recall correctly). He also complained that the system was a huge pain in the neck; that students chatted endlessly on every random subject just to get on the record, and that the whole thing encouraged name-dropping and networking during the class instead of thinking carefully and learning something complicated...

If 50% of law students’ grades were based on class participation, I bet they would have talked non-stop too. And it's not clear that this would have made law school classes better. More entertaining, maybe. But more substantively "meaty"? More intellectually challenging? Not so sure.

From my law school days, I don’t remember ever wishing that some silent student said something. But I vividly recall wishing that some chatterbox shut up.

5. Posted by Michael Guttentag on October 26, 2005 @ 13:01 | Permalink

Kate: I think your information is correct. Based on my recollection, our grade at HBS was typically 50% based on participation. When I was there, the task of assigning the participation grade was handled solely by the professor, who was supposed to consider quality as well as quantity.

It is certainly true that students may not say the most inspired things, but when participation is such a large part of the grade several good things do happen: almost all students participate, not just the few who are already comfortable with participation; most students are very well prepared to discuss the class material; and, occasionally, some students do say some interesting things. The professor still gets to run the class however he or she wants to, but the students are paying attention. It reminds me of one of my favorite old jokes: What is the difference between ham and eggs? The chicken is interested, the pig is committed. If all the students in a law school class were committed to participation it could make for an interesting dynamic, as long as the professor was able and willing to maintain control.

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