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Ed Poll
  Week of December 14, 2010

Is It Worth Getting the Third Degree?

Nobody goes to law school without having an undergraduate degree. And most lawyers still enter law school with an undergraduate degree in the liberal arts rather than any business-related field (except for the many IP lawyers with undergrad training in chemistry, engineering or a similar field). Law school curricula have little business focus and few Bar Associations give MCLE credit for any courses that hint of marketing or finance, leaving lawyers ill-equipped to deal with business clients on the client's level of understanding. This raises the question, would more lawyers benefit from getting a third degree, a Master's in Business Administration?
Having both a J.D. (formerly an LL.B) and an M.B.A., I think I'm qualified to give a reasoned assessment... and my answer is, no. I received my law degree first and entered law practice. Seven years later, with some time on my hands, I went to night school to obtain an M.B.A. The latter degree did me no good in marketing my law practice (other than the knowledge I gained) while practicing law. When I became a law practice management coach and consultant, suddenly people took notice of my M.B.A. degree, thinking I knew what I was talking about because of the degree.
My advice is that lawyers should get the degree, and the knowledge, that is important to their careers and continue to learn as their careers progress. Knowledge is always important and only continued learning will enable one to advance. Interestingly, when I talk to young people today about going to law school, they now respond primarily in ROI terms (a business concept of return on investment). And if they don't see a quick return on their investment of both time and money, they don't go to law school. That's as it should be, because anyone with such an orientation is better off not pursuing a profession where "The Business of Law®" is still suspect.
Although M.B.A. degrees still cost less that the six-figure expenditures often required for a J.D. degree, the expense is considerable , and the value received is increasingly diluted because business schools no longer require several years of practical experience and sole full-time focus on the advanced business course of study. One alternative today is the joint degree program offered by many universities. A more practical alternative, especially if you've been away from school for awhile and one that even many business people pursue, is the so-called "executive M.B.A." program that offers advanced but less intensive training in a condensed timeframe. Some business schools, such as Northwestern University's Kellogg School of Management and The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, have even worked with large law firms to construct such programs for their lawyers. And of course there's no reason why an individual attorney can't pick up a basic business class or two at the local community college. This seems to me a more practical way than pursuing an M.B.A. to gain business skills and insight.

Ed Poll

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Personal Commentary
Life is good! Outside temperatures of 80 to 90 degrees made me forget we're only a few days away from official Winter. The rest of the country is beginning to experience snow, rain and all the things I forget about while living in Paradise.
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What Readers Are Saying...
"No matter how you slice it, there is no substitute for wisdom and experience. Ed Poll has demonstrated both in this eyeopening book about the essential elements of running a profitable law practice. He provides practical wisdom along with simple ways to adopt and incorporate best practices for each. After explaining the pros and cons of every decision, he makes recommendations and provides useful guides disguised as key principles. Buy the book so you too can access Ed's wisdom and experience. It's worth much more than the investment."


Ed Poll
Ed Poll

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