The JD/MBA - A rare breed

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By Dane Christensen, JD/MBA Candidate

With only a handful of us pursuing the joint-program, we JD/MBA students are a bit of a rarity at the Harper Center. Throughout the first two years of my program, my law classmates and fellow Boothies have asked tons of questions about the JD/MBA program. Here are just a few of the most common queries:

What’s the biggest difference between law school and business school?

The first year of law school (1L) is extremely academically demanding. I had to study about five or six times harder than I had ever studied during undergrad just to keep up with my law school classmates. During 1L grades matter for legal recruiting, which produces pressure to perform well academically. However, the Law School does a fantastic job fostering a collegial classroom environment and student community that has never felt overtly cut-throat or competitive.

Through grade nondisclosure, Boothies have effectively avoided the Nash equilibrium of excessive studies, which allows us to spend greater time on other experiences integral to graduate school such as relationship building, taking tougher classes, participating in student groups, and competing in case competitions. Despite grade nondisclosure, I’ve been pleased to find that, the level of intellectual rigor and curiosity among Booth’s student body—both inside and outside the classroom—rivals that of any top law school.

At the law school, there are no midterm assignment or examinations—only a final exam for each class. Conversely, almost every single Booth class I’ve taken has required me to participate in weekly group-based assignments. This has been a fantastic opportunity to further refine my teamwork and project management skills.

Do you want to be a lawyer or go into business?

I don’t see being a “lawyer” or “going into business” as being mutually exclusive, but I definitely want to work at a law firm as an attorney. I plan to use the skills and knowledge I’m gaining at the Harper Center to differentiate myself in a law firm as someone who understands the underlying competitive strategies and financial implications of my clients’ decisions. Working on countless group assignments at Booth and participating in case competitions has also given me a better sense of how my future MBA clients think about issues and how they approach problem-solving. I know this will allow me to serve their legal needs more effectively in the future.

Four years is a lot of school…are you sure it’s worth it?

When you crunch the numbers, adding a fourth year to an already three-year law degree can get expensive. The cost of tuition paired with the opportunity cost of a foregone years’ salary adds up very quickly. However, the value I place on my joint-degree is difficult to translate to dollars and cents. Much of the of the value I perceive is intangible. It’s difficult to place an exact value on the relationships I’m creating, the classroom experiences I’m receiving, and the dual alumni networks I’m leveraging as a JD/MBA student—but I’m convinced it far exceeds the additional costs of extra schooling.

Dane Christensen is a second-year JD/MBA candidate at the University of Chicago Law School and Booth School of Business and currently serves as co-chair for Booth’s JD/MBA Association. He currently works as a UChicago Innovation Fund Associate and will be joining Sidley Austin Chicago’s corporate law practice this summer.