After studying in the MBA program and undergraduate business program at Emory Goizueta and at Berkeley Haas, as well as the Juris Master (JM) of Law Program at Emory Law, I wanted to outline some of the key differences between my experiences pursuing a business education and a legal one. Just for your reference, the JM program is a one year's master's degree for non-lawyers. Most of my classmates are either faculty at Emory (e.g. Professor at the School of Nursing), doctors, or non-legal professionals. The average age range is probably around 30-35. That said, JMs take classes with the JD students, so each class might have 50 people, and 2-3 of them will be JMs, the rest of the class will be JDs.
1. Mindset - Strategy vs. Technicalities
Taking a Mergers and Acquisitions (M and A) class in the B-school and the Law School are completely different. One will focus on strategies, case studies, and high level thinking, and the other will focus on knowing the technicalities of the M and A transactions (e.g. what forms do you have to fill out, what merger structure can you use - direct, cash-out merger, reverse triangular, forward triangular, stock purchase or asset purchase).
2. Probabilities and Risk Tolerance
- Business students are likely to suggest more ideas that may be creative, legally grey, or too novel to have legal precedent, and lawyers prefer to stick to clearly what the laws state you can or cannot do. Lawyers also love to consider exceptions to a common rule (which 90% of the time won't happen), while business students have a "deal with it when we get there" attitude. Business students seem to be more risk taking while legal professionals are more reluctant to take risks.
3 - Leader Versus Servant Attitude
Business education teaches you to be in the key CEO spot, while legal education teaches you to be an advisor. In pretty much every law class, the key lesson for lawyers is that you should ultimately defer to the client when it comes to key decisions. Even if you do not agree (as long as the decision is not illegal), you should follow what the client says. If you think the client is making the wrong move, you should say your piece, but ultimately follow the client instructions.
4 - Class Dynamics - Group vs. Individual
MBA classes are far more collaborative, law classes are much more "solo," and business undergraduate classes ten to be in the middle. Most MBAs don't care too much about grades because they are likely to end up with a good high paying job regardless of their grades (and assuming you are in a top 20 school), but lawyers stress over their grades and many of them don't end up in jobs that have lucrative compensation packages. Law classes have very little group work and most have none at all. One of my friends, who is a JD, even said that in group projects, “everyone will want to do everything because no one trusts anyone.”
5 – Similar Ambitions
Law students seem to be very happy if they get a $150,000 dollar salary, and seem to be content with just being part of the upper middle class. The same is mostly true for business students who go into top 20 schools, perhaps because top 20 MBA schools are good at producing managers, though not a lot end up in CEO positions or starting successful companies relative to the number of people who get into traditional jobs.
6 – Career Centers
In general, business career centers are much better than legal career centers. Most top business school programs really pride themselves on having a high job placement rate, and make an active effort to set up numerous networking events and to direct students to the right resources.
For an entrepreneur, such as myself the legal education has been so eye-opening. While the classes on the legal side may be quite dry at times, some of the content is extremely useful and more practical than the fluffy strategy theory that business schools love to throw around. On a graduate level, my legal education has probably been more fruitful than my MBA education, but only because my foundations studying business as an undergraduate student (plus my work experience) already gave me a strong base.