Before and after law school, many people consider attending business school, either at a different college or through a joint JD/MBA program (dual degree JD/MBA). Interest in dual JD and MBA degrees can be attributed to either career objectives or personal interests. In spite of this growing trend, I have heard many legal professionals criticize joint JD/MBA programs. But, as an attorney who has actually earned an MBA from the nation’s top business school, I wholeheartedly disagree. My experience at The University of Chicago Booth School of Business has proven one of the most pivotal points in my career.
I had the good fortune of starting Chicago Booth’s rigorous educational program with the background of an experienced professional. In the Executive MBA program, I worked alongside leaders from a multitude of industries. They taught me about fields outside my wheelhouse. The curriculum taught me how fundamental finance, strategy, and economic theories impact each of our professions.
Business school molded me as an attorney and equipped me with tools to evaluate cases from the business person’s perspective. Early in my legal career, I learned the importance of identifying and preventing risks. Although effective attorneys utilize both offensive and defensive tactics, perhaps the greatest value an attorney can bring to the table is issue recognition. Business leaders acknowledge issues but generally have a mind geared toward opportunity and forward movement. Apart, these skills might seem incongruous. Integrated, they ensure business success.
When interacting with a client, I harken from my business and financial strategy classes, as well as my corporate law and federal tax law courses. In business school, I learned how to read my client’s balance sheet. Together, my classmates and I produced financial models and valued corporations. Although I am not yet an expert in financial accounting and corporate valuations, business school gave me the tools to understand my client’s financial position and help identify opportunity as well as risk.
Perhaps most important, I gained a comprehensive network. The Executive MBA program at Chicago Booth is a global program with campuses in Chicago, Hong Kong, and London. In the first summer, students from all campuses are combined in separate cohorts and travel from one campus to the next. During my time at Booth, I opted to complete two quarters in Hong Kong and one quarter in London. Now, when my client has a problem with a Swiss bank, I can reach out to my classmate who is a Swiss banker and ask about banking practices in Switzerland. If another client has questions about venture capital in Shanghai, I email a classmate from the Hong Kong campus. When someone asks about a new venture or the tech industry, I ring classmates in Chicago and San Francisco.
In essence, my personal experience with business school has enhanced my work as an entrepreneur and an attorney. An MBA program can enlighten minds and open doors. I admit my experience may be defined by attending the business school ranked #1 in the Nation. However, the basic tools of an MBA program can empower the legal professional if properly leveraged. While not everyone is suited for an MBA program, I can personally attest that my time at Chicago Booth was a professional and educational experience that I will always value.
-The author of this post, Star Q. Lopez , is a partner at Layton & Lopez Tax Attorneys, LLP, in Newport Beach, Orange County, California. She focuses her practice in the areas of tax, estate planning and business formations. She holds a law degree from UCLA, a master’s of tax law from NYU, and an MBA from Chicago Booth.