M.B.A.

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?

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In Professor Paul Campos’s new book, Don’t Go To Law School (Unless) (affiliate link) — a book I’d recommend to anyone thinking seriously about law school — he shares an email from an individual who, after much research and thought, decides to enroll in law school. The email sheds some light on why people continue to sign up for law school despite all the warnings (from folks like Professor Campos, my colleague Elie Mystal, and many others). The law student writes:

[Prospective law students] think: debt doesn’t matter. There is no penalty for defaulting on the debt, except the relinquishment of the privileges of an advanced financial life. . . Students evaluating the horrible deal in question believe they have no access anyway to those privileges (e.g. a retirement account, a home purchase, a start-up business). For the student in question, all law school has to do is provide some potential benefit, and it becomes a rational choice.

After acknowledging that “[t]here’s a lot of force in this line of argument,” Professor Campos tries to refute it, basically arguing that many who go to law school based on such reasoning are “making a difficult situation worse.” But maybe the argument is not so easily refuted.

After all, what else are you going to do with yourself? Before you criticize law schools and those who matriculate at them, please familiarize yourself with the grim economic realities of twenty-first century America….

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Here is Cornell University trying to convince its own graduate students to come back to school and get yet another degree.

Yeah, I know, they are being that bold. It’s like saying, “Okay, OKAY, I know that car we sold you blew up in your face and you lost your hands. But you have got to check out our brand new prosthetic hands.”

Arguably, this is just Cornell’s aggressive new ad campaign for its business school, but they should at least be more discreet. The JD candidates in the class of 2014 don’t even know they’re being bamboozled yet….

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