Having graduated from an MBA/JD program, I have been often asked by law students if it is worth the extra time and financial commitment to pursue an MBA degree if they intend to practice law. My short answer to this question is yes! The goal of this blog post is to flag three benefits to having an MBA as an articling student.
CLIENT MANAGEMENT SKILLS
During the MBA program, I learned to manage a client’s expectations by clearly defining the scope of a deliverable and maintaining a continuous and open dialogue with the client. I developed these client management skills by working closely with corporate executives on real-world corporate projects. Due to the quick turnaround for each project, I was required to clarify the client’s issue and narrow the scope of the project to provide a high quality and useful deliverable in an efficient manner.
During articles, my client management skills have allowed me to set realistic expectations for my clients with respect to settlement negotiations and trials. In order to effectively manage my client’s expectations, I have found that it is important to keep them continuously informed on the progress of their file and to include them in the decision making process. Consequently, I have been able to provide my clients with both settlement and trial outcomes that they are pleased with.
BUSINESS MANAGEMENT SKILLS
During the MBA program, I learned how to effectively manage a business and develop comprehensive business plans and corporate strategies by working through case studies and with our corporate partners. Furthermore, after completing a major paper on lead generation for professional service firms, I learned the importance of client retention and the value of client referrals.
During articles, my business management skills have allowed me to appreciate the importance of budgeting a specific amount of billable time and disbursements for each stage of a client’s matter. For example, I have found it beneficial to provide clients with periodic invoices to ensure that they are aware of the cost of their legal services before the closing of their file. Lastly, I have been able to manage a high caseload effectively by implementing a system for prioritizing my work based on upcoming limitation periods and the assigned date of the work.
During the MBA program, I received training in accounting, finance, marketing, human resources, entrepreneurship, consumer behavior, management information systems, and strategy. Consequently, I learned how to read financial statements and understand how a company operates. By working as a graduated assistant in the financial market labs and working closely with the executives of our corporate partners, I was able to apply these skills to real world problems.
During articles, I have found that my business knowledge has allowed me to understand the issues faced by our corporate clients. As a result, I find that I am able to spend more time researching the solutions instead of the problems because I am already familiar with the corporate context surrounding the legal issues. Furthermore, my management information systems training has allowed me to manipulate large amounts of data using Excel spreadsheets, and turn over work assignments quickly. Lastly, I am able to effectively communicate with my clients about their businesses.
FINAL ADVICE – GO FOR IT
If you have ever considered pursuing a joint MBA/JD degree, I suggest that you go for it! The skills you will learn during the MBA program are transferable to the practice of law and will ease the steep learning curve that you will inevitably experience as an articling student.