Welcome to the latest installment of Law Admissions Q&A, a feature that provides law school admissions advice to readers who send in inquiries. If you have a question about law school admissions, email us for a chance to be featured in a future post.
I’m very much interested in a J.D.–MBA but I’m not sure how to go about it. Does every school require that you get into the law school first? Can you apply simultaneously but only get into one of those programs? How does this work? — UA
Over the last few decades, trends in law and business have led to significant overlap between these two fields. Lawyers are increasingly called upon to think in terms of business strategy, and business leaders spend more time than ever grappling with legal regulations, compliance and risks.
The popularity of J.D.–MBA programs has grown accordingly. These joint programs allow students to finish both business and law degrees concurrently within the same university system, typically shaving a year off the five years it generally takes to earn both degrees separately. Some schools, like Northwestern University and the University of Notre Dame, even offer accelerated three-year J.D.–MBA programs.
J.D.–MBA programs vary in detail, but in most cases admitted students complete a year or two of law school, then a year of business school, then finish up with a mix of business and law classes. Beyond the typical core courses required for both degrees, participants might be required or encouraged to take extra courses focused on related topics like corporate law, securities law and finance.
How to Apply to a J.D.–MBA Program
J.D.–MBA programs are highly competitive. Some have an integrated application process, like the University of Pennsylvania. A few, like the University of Chicago, even have a special track for undergraduate applicants who plan to defer admission for two to four years to gain work experience before matriculating in the program.
In most cases, however, applicants must apply separately to the business school and law school and earn admission to both. If you are accepted to one but not the other, you can try to add the second degree later or resign yourself to cross-registering for classes in the other school.
Both programs will require application essays and recommendation letters. While you may feel tempted to submit the same essays and recommendation letters to both law and business schools to save time, this can be risky.
Law schools and business schools are not necessarily looking for the same qualities in candidates, and their application guidelines can differ significantly. It’s best to write separate essays for each school, even if they overlap in content, and to ask your recommenders to tailor their letters separately as well.
If you miss your chance to apply concurrently to J.D.–MBA programs, don’t worry. Usually, J.D.–MBA students can apply to add on an MBA during their first year of law school. Since law school is longer and often more selective than business school, this is an easier and more common route than starting as an MBA candidate and seeking to add on the J.D.
Because program details, deadlines and processes vary, it is safest to identify target J.D.–MBA programs you wish to attend and research their specifics. If you have questions, reach out to admissions officers.
Are J.D.–MBA Programs Worthwhile?
J.D.–MBA programs add a year of tuition and hard work on top of law school. This extra year also entails one more year of lost income while you attend school full time.
Furthermore, it’s hard to predict whether the extra classes you take will aid you in your career. After all, most lawyers and businesspeople alike do the bulk of their learning on the job.
Whether these programs are worth the cost depends on your personal interests and career goals. For example, if you want to work in mergers and acquisitions, serve as an in-house counsel to a major corporation or lead a business in a highly regulated business environment, both the credentials and knowledge you gain from joint J.D.–MBA degrees may be tremendously helpful.
Certainly, having both degrees under your belt will help you stand out from the pack in your job search. You will also widen your network with colleagues from the joint program as well as contacts from each school. Those contacts will come in handy for climbing the corporate ladder and bringing in clients.
More from U.S. News