Harvard, Job Searches, Law Schools, Summer Associates

(Un)Fair Harvard? Law School Limits Job Options For Joint Degree Students

Joint degree programs appeal to some people. The thought of walking away from school with a J.D. and an M.B.A. in hand is nice. I’m not counting any other joint degree program. It’s nice to get a Master’s in Interpretive Dance with your law degree, but that’s not what people are really thinking of when they hear “joint degree program.”

It is another year of schooling, though. And that extra year comes with extra tuition and debt. However, most students going the joint degree route reason that it doesn’t matter because in the end, a joint degree will open many more job opportunities. Plus, you get two years to summer and try out places to work!

But at Harvard, some joint J.D./M.B.A. students are being locked out of job interviews. Is Harvard screwing over these students, or making a prudent call to protect the rest of the class?

Harvard describes its joint degree program as follows:

Harvard Law School (HLS) and Harvard Business School (HBS) offer a joint degree program in law and business. Completion of the program leads to the degrees of Juris Doctor and Master in Business Administration (JD/MBA). The program is designed for students who have the background that will enable them to handle the rigorous and concentrated course of study. It allows students to gain expertise in both the law and general management practices. The program prepares students for careers in which an understanding of both legal and business principles is essential.

Sounds great. But what about my career opportunities?

Joint degree students may take full advantage of the career resources available at the Law School during their first year there or similarly may use the MBA career resources when in their first year at the Business School. Students will then have access to career services at both schools when they are in their third and fourth years of the Program. At the Law School, students have access to printed and online resources, information sessions and workshops as well as advising by both the Office of Career Services (OCS) and the Office of Public Interest Advising (OPIA). At the Business School, students have access to the HBS Job Bank, a variety of workshops and recruiting events and individual career coaching by the MBA Career Services Office.

Alright! So the only downside is losing a year of your working life and another year of tuition.

And then this, which a tipster forwarded to us:

Select firms — Joint degree students graduating in 2016 may only bid on employers that expressed interest in interviewing joint degree students from that graduating class. A current list of eligible employers can be found here. Please follow this instruction closely. Joint Degree students who bid for employers that are not on the approved list will have their bids canceled and interviewing privileges forfeited.

So much for “joint degree students may take full advantage of the career resources available.” Joint degree students learned this a mere two weeks before OCI. It’s kind of a bait-and-switch for students who thought getting two summers to evaluate workplaces would be a perk of forking over extra cash to Harvard.

In Harvard’s defense, someone in the class of 2016 might not have actually completed their first year of law school. The program requires students to spend one year at each school for the first two years and the student can choose to begin their career in either school. Someone still waiting to take 1L courses is not an ideal candidate for most firms. OCI slots are finite, and keeping candidates out of interviews for jobs they can’t possibly get saves space for the rest of the class.

But, seriously, this seems like something they can hash out with a better tailored solution. Instead of a blanket bar on joint degree students, the school would be better served by keeping the students who have only gone to B-School out of the interview process, while letting those that weathered their 1L year compete for jobs on an even playing field with their classmates. That would solve all the disadvantages of having non-law students take up interview slots without holding back someone who just went through 1L.

Again, I can see arguments on both sides of this dispute, assuming Harvard let the students know about this procedure and the relative dearth of opportunities they’d face sometime before now. If they didn’t, well then, to quote the Simpsons, “You sir, have the boorish manners of a Yalie!”

Interested in seeing what firms are willing to meet with joint degree students? The list is on the next page and there’s a whole lotta not New York or D.C. on there…

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