After nearly a year of review, Yale Law School faculty have voted to make permanent the three-year J.D./M.B.A. joint-degree program offered between the Law School and School of Management.

The University has offered the joint-degree program — formally approved with minimal changes on Oct. 21 — as a pilot since fall 2009. The curriculum allows students to graduate with both business and law degrees in six semesters, has no summer coursework requirement and is among the shortest J.D./M.B.A. tracks in the nation. While faculty at SOM have yet to vote on the program’s future, the school’s Deputy Dean for Faculty Development Andrew Metrick said the SOM will likely also approve the program.

“The reason why the program is worthwhile is because it enhances the already rich panoply of offerings that we have,” said law Professor Jonathan Macey LAW ’82, who sat on the review committee. “It gives students an additional option in their choice set.”

Though pursuing a joint degree prevents students from taking a wider array of elective courses, Macey said the academic sacrifices students must make to earn the two degrees — which normally take five years to earn independently — are not substantial given the benefits of a focused business-law education.

Nine Yale students are currently pursuing the accelerated joint degree, which differs from the four-year J.D./M.B.A. degree the University also offers. Students may apply for the accelerated J.D./M.B.A. as first-year J.D. students, first-year M.B.A. students or as applicants to Yale.

Taylor Hedrick LAW ’13 SOM ’13 said that pursuing the three-year joint degree could prohibit students from expanding their education beyond core requirements. Yale’s accelerated J.D./M.B.A. track can be particularly limiting for students interested in academia, Hedrick said. Because joint-degree candidates spend their second year mainly at SOM, he said they can face difficulty in working directly with Law School faculty on research and taking Law School electives.
But David Schizer GRD ’90 LAW ’93, Dean of Columbia Law School, which began offering a six-semester J.D./M.B.A. program this fall, said it is unusual for students to pursue academic careers immediately after graduation.

Joint-degree programs should ensure that students graduate with comprehensive skills characteristic of both degrees, he said. Columbia Law School has started designing courses co-taught by law and business faculty in an effort to create an integrated approach for the joint degree.

“It’s great if you can get both degrees, but the heart of [the program] is what the curriculum is going to be,” Schizer said. “There are synergies when you bring these two types of educations together, especially if you’re creating special jointly-taught courses.”

Yale has not created new courses to merge business and law concepts, Macey said, adding that the Law School has traditionally offered interdisciplinary courses.

While the University is not unique among its Ivy peers in offering an accelerated joint-degree program, Yale and Columbia are the only two to exclude summer coursework from J.D./M.B.A. requirements.

“We felt strongly that we did not want students to have to take courses over the summer, and the reason for that is that we think the professional experiences that our students get over the summer are pedagogically important and help to prepare them for their future careers,” Schizer said.

The J.D./M.B.A. program at the University of Pennsylvania spans three academic years — including one summer term ­— and Associate Director for J.D./M.B.A. Recruitment and Administration Colleen France said the summer session helps students build a solid academic foundation in both areas of study. Though putting one summer toward the joint-degree program prevents students from pursuing a full-time internship during that period, France said the internships first-year law students typically acquire are often unrelated to their long-term career plans.

“The cornerstone of the curricular design of Penn’s curriculum is that neither degree is sacrificed,” France said. “This just gives students an absolute in-depth curriculum in both law and business.”

Three of seven students interviewed said Yale’s lack of a J.D./M.B.A. summer coursework requirement influenced their decisions to enroll in the University’s accelerated joint-degree program rather than in similar tracks at other institutions.

Jariel Rendell LAW ’12 SOM ’12 said in a Monday email that a major advantage of Yale’s program is the flexibility it affords in securing internships. Over the course of his six-term degree, Rendell said he was free to complete either two legal internships or one legal and one business internship.

But Robert Borek LAW ’13 SOM ’13 cautioned that pursuing the three-year joint degree forces students to have a fairly clear idea of what they want to accomplish during the condensed program and after graduation.

All students interviewed said they think the joint degree is adequately preparing them to take on careers in either law or business.

“Obviously, you’ll have a bit less coursework,” Borek said. “But when you come out of school, no matter how much you learned while you were there, you’re not going to be prepared for what comes next.”

Students who pursue the accelerated joint-degree at Yale spend one year in the SOM and two in the Law School.