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Joint Law & Business Degrees

by Van Thompson, studioD

Law and business are natural companions because the two disciplines significantly affect one another. Law schools are increasingly offering dual degrees in law and business to students interested in keeping their career options open. A dual degree means more work and often more time in school, but you'll graduate with two degrees instead of one.

How it Works

With a dual degree, you'll take courses in both the business and law schools of your university, spending less time in school than if you pursued each degree individually. For example, for full-time students, a law degree takes three years, while a master's degree usually takes two, but you can complete both in four years at Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School. You'll have to fulfill the requirements for both degrees, but there's significant overlap between the law and business degree, allowing for a faster graduation trajectory.

The Classes You'll Take

First-year law students take the same courses no matter what school they attend, including classes such as legal writing and research, torts, civil procedure and contracts. A business degree also requires core courses such as finance and management. At Harvard, students take the first year of each program separately, then fulfill additional requirements, including electives, during their third and fourth years. At the University of Texas, students must complete a year of law school before fulfilling any other requirements. To graduate, students have to complete a total of 70 law school courses, 23 core business courses and 24 elective business courses. Choosing electives such as business law can help you complete requirements for both degrees. Your course structure will vary depending upon the specific degree you seek. A student pursuing a master's degree in business administration may have to meet different requirements than a student pursuing a Ph.D. in finance.

Benefits of Dual Degrees

A dual degree in law and business helps diversify your career options. It can also give you the skills you need to succeed in business or law. For example, if you want to start your own law firm, a business degree could help you understand the financial and management aspects of running a law practice. "U.S. News and World Report" emphasizes that businesses need to understand local laws. Matthew Spitzer, Director of the Searle Center on Law, Regulation, and Economic Growth at Northwestern University Law School, emphasizes that dual degrees have enabled him to be a more effective teacher by educating his students about the connections between business and law.

Drawbacks of Dual Degrees

While joint law and business degrees can open up new career options, few careers require both degrees. You'll spend more money on two degrees and the intense coursework will mean that it takes longer for you to graduate and start your career. The competition to get into dual programs is stiff and the schools that offer these programs are often the most competitive schools. Harvard, Yale and Stanford, for example, all offer dual programs.

About the Author

Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.

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