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NetworkingWhy A Top Law Firm Teaches Its Lawyers To Be More Like MBAs

Nowadays, having a law degree might not be enough for a law firm to feel comfortable hiring you. At least that’s the case at New York City-based Skadden Arps—one of the country’s largest law firms. Now recent hires must complete five weeks of training that the firm has dubbed a “mini virtual MBA.”
“We were looking for a way to prepare people to hit the ground running,” Jodie Garfinkel, director of attorney development and professional personnel at Skadden, told Bloomberg Businessweek. “We want to prepare people to add as much value as they can, as quickly as they can.”
The first-year associates are now required to learn about cash flows, balance sheets, and income statements. Additionally, they must study mergers and acquisitions and corporate valuation. They even film themselves giving presentations and then watch to adjust communication skills. It’s all in an effort to train them to speak like MBAs and present like a CEO.
Jennifer Pangione, an attorney development manager at Skadden told Bloomberg Businessweek that it is pretty much the same “stuff you would learn in your first year in business school.” Of course, merging business and legal education is on the uptick. Many schools already offer joint MBA/JD programs. New York Law School just invited the University of Rochester Simon School of Business to use space in their New York City-based campus building. Harvard Law is requiring all 1Ls to take a crash course in MBA fundamentals as well.
Garfinkel told Bloomberg Businessweek that she and her colleagues at Skadden are happy to see law schools beginning to incorporate business training more in their curriculum. As she points out, knowing about corporate law is as much about knowing how a corporation works as it is knowing how the law works. According to Garfinkel, the program started quickly after the 2009 recession when clients began paying a lot more attention to the cost of legal services. Firms were forced to prove the value of their work and first-year associates were the “obvious” area that needed proof of value.
The lesson for current and future law students is this: When an opportunity to take business courses presents itself, take them—especially if corporate law is the desired outcome.
Source: Bloomberg Businessweek

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