By Mark Pittman, Lassonde Associate, JD/MBA student
Approximately 1.25 million lawyers live in the Unites States of America. That means there is approximately 1 lawyer for every 39.63 people in the country. With this many lawyers, and ever few jobs, it is critical that you differentiate yourself from the competition and maybe even prepare for an alternative career.
Being a lawyer is a business. When a client hands you a check he or she expects that you perform a service. The check they hand you pays your expenses, costs and hopefully a salary. Yet very few law school students will ever take a course on the business of practicing law. However, many aspiring law students dream of one day being a partner at a large or medium sized firm, or even running their own office. The reality is that firm partners run a business more than anything else; they are responsible for hiring, firing, advertising, finding clients and balancing their books at the end of the month – all without any formal training in that area.
Corporations need lawyers, and corporations write large checks. When it comes down to hiring an attorney, general counsel or another business executive will usually rely on the recommendation of a friend or colleague more than anything else. What they are looking for in that recommendation is that a lawyer really understands their business. Now, most lawyers have never seen a balance sheet, nor have they ever written a business plan so how does a law student get the experience they need to be recommended? Business school.
As a JD candidate at the University of Utah you have three major assets at your disposal: the David Eccles School of Business, the University of Utah MBA Program, and the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute.
As a student at the University of Utah you are eligible to take six credit hours of course work from the business school towards the completion of your degree. This is the ideal opportunity to supplement you learning with some finance knowledge, accounting skills, or business strategy and thinking, with courses that will set you apart for your classmates during on campus interviews and in applying for jobs.
The U‘s MBA program is ranked No. 63 in the nation and is one of the best in the Western United States. The current MBA Director, Dave Harris, is a JD/MBA who is a strong proponent of the dual degree. This program is one of the most phenomenal educational experiences you will ever have the opportunity to be a part of. At the end of your four years you will be able to call yourself both a lawyer and an MBA, having gained the skills and knowledge from two separate degrees to really tackle your career. The dual degree program can take up to an additional year but is the perfect primer for becoming a general counsel or working in corporate or business law. Conveniently the business school’s focus on networking will also get you in touch with some of the region’s leading employers.
The Lassonde Institute founded by Pierre Lassonde and a multimillion-dollar endowment provide students with the opportunity to connect their education with hands-on working experiences. Programs such as the Lassonde New Venture Development Center allows graduate students from all across the U to come together in cross-functional teams and work to take a product from its patent disclosure all the way to market. This opportunity has already been sought after by dozens of law school students in the past. Additionally the Lassonde Institute offers students the ability to be involved in other ways such as by providing advice and assistance to students who are inventing new technology and founding businesses, or by being an entrepreneur yourself through the Entrepreneur Club, UES or Bench 2 Bedside. This opportunity allows law school students to network and connect with entrepreneurs from all across campus and to be involved in commercialization and business development.
The University of Utah is buzzing with opportunity. In an environment as competitive as the post-recession lawyer hiring market it is crucial to bring a trump card to the table. Engaging, being involved and utilizing the resources available to you is crucial to your success. I challenge you to find out what business can do for you.