Since its inception, the Master of Science in Law program at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law has attracted students with significant business experience, including some who already have MBAs. Why would experienced business professionals with significant educational pedigrees want to get a master’s degree in law? We can try to sell you on this, but we thought it might be more effective for you to hear directly from business professionals who have chosen to study in the MSL program. So, we asked them this very question (and some other questions as well) in the hopes of eliciting information that might allow others to evaluate the benefits of MSL learning in the business world.
One thing is for sure: law is everywhere; it is embedded into every important business situation. Especially in today’s STEM-based business landscape, professionals who understand the legal implications of business decisions and the business impact of legal decisions have a big leg up. The MSL curriculum facilitates this understanding by focusing on a variety of topics that contribute to a more holistic and nuanced understanding of business – topics like intellectual property, regulation, data, contracts, and many more are not emphasized in business schools but are hugely important in successful businesses. Professionals who combine an MSL degree with an MBA find that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.
Please read on to learn more about how the MSL has benefitted business professionals.
Meet The MSLs:
|Katie Butcher, MSL ‘22|
|Ejede Okogbo, MSL ‘16|
We asked each of these students a few questions about their experiences:
Why did you opt for another degree after completing your MBA?
- “As my career progressed, I was increasingly involved with human capital issues, contract review, antitrust concerns, and other business decisions that had significant legal implications. I started to search for a program that would build on my prior business and engineering education and would be applicable to issues I was facing at work in real-time. The content in the MSL program was a perfect complement to my MBA, and the Northwestern reputation, the fantastic faculty, and the alumni network provided added value for me.” (Tony Gaston)
- “I believe you can never be overeducated. In my current role as a tech investor, I engage with lawyers on a daily basis, evaluating, crafting, and negotiating investment documents. I did not seek to practice law, but I want to equip myself with an advanced degree that offers a more sophisticated understanding of legal reasoning and doctrine.” (Amir Kabir)
- “I wanted to be able to think like an attorney but couldn’t put my career on hold to get a JD. No other law school offered a focus on technology and intellectual property at the intersection of business and law. This made Northwestern’s MSL the perfect fit for my education.” (Adam Gobbo)
- “I chose the MSL program because it provides an elevated level of specialization that my general MBA lacks. I am a large cap-focused corporate investment banker venturing into the startup scene, and was interested in the MSL program’s wide range of electives on important aspects of entrepreneurship, such as operations, product development, finance, and compliance, on top of legal concerns. This coverage will surely make me a better advisor for an expanded scope of clients across a broader range of industries.” (Neville Lam)
- “In my field, it’s not uncommon to have an engineering degree (or two!) plus an MBA. To stand out, I felt that I needed to acquire new and unique skills that would allow me to take on career challenges. In addition, I’m a curious person who believes in lifelong learning. (Joe Lee)
- “I did a joint MBA/Master’s in Civil Engineering program and didn’t have room in my study program to take business law courses, although they were highly recommended to me. When I saw the curriculum in the MSL program offered these topics, I thought this was the right next step for my career.” (Jessica DeWitt)
- “I realized my background had been very focused on the quantitative side, and there were areas I needed to develop to move forward in my career. An MBA is a quant degree; I knew I wanted an additional degree that was fundamentally different from quant-focused work.” (Ejede Okogbo)
- “My work is primarily business-focused but is heavily influenced by the legal world. I found that I was interacting often with contracts, entrepreneurship, and IP but I did not possess the educational foundation to make me a true expert. The MSL bridged that gap and allowed me to speak with greater authority on matters within my purview.” (Katie Butcher)
What skills or knowledge did the MSL provide that you were missing?
- “I was able to develop my knowledge in the areas of contracts, business formation, and IP management. In addition, the MSL equipped me with analytical thinking skills that helped me to better understand issues from a legal perspective.” (Joe Lee)
- “The MSL essentially provides the “why” to the “this is how you do this” in areas where business, science, and law collide. My coursework in the MSL provided the theory behind the contract terms I had included for years and the legal foundation for practices my office engages in daily.” (Katie Butcher)
- “While I don’t work in a legal field, I do work in a government adjacent field. The MSL program helped me to better understand the complexities of how our business interacts with government agencies and the nuances of employment relationships within the company. In addition, I’ve found that the legal frameworks have provided me with a new approach to decision-making. Before, my quantitative background led to a “head down and build” mindset in order to come to a solution, but the MSL made me realize it’s not always so black and white, and I’ve now adopted more of a “collaborate and design” approach.” (Ejede Okogbo)
- “During my time in the program, I focused on core courses and electives closely related to some of the business challenges I was dealing with at work, including employment law, venture capital, contracts, and antitrust law.” (Tony Gaston)
- “I’ve been able to draw from my MSL education to more confidently make business decisions that relate to the law. I did not have any law classes in my MBA – for example, nothing on how to read a contract or the UCC. Am I able to take partial delivery or refuse the entire shipment? What does the contract say about indemnification, and what about reps and warranties? I feel like the condensed MSL program gave me the equivalent of years of practical experience. Similarly, the MSL offered a focus on entrepreneurship that was missing from my MBA – the MSL equipped me to better understand business formation, monetizing intellectual property, and tax implications of business decisions. The MSL helped me unlock the MBA so that I could more strategically utilize the content I learned there. The MBA combined with the MSL is more potent than any MBA on its own.” (Adam Gobbo)
How has the MSL helped you in your career?
- “The MSL has opened me up to a wider variety of opportunities within my chosen career path. I have been able to tackle more challenging projects and take on new assignments such as overseeing larger, more impactful contract negotiations and now, managing license strategy for the whole department. The MSL has led to at least one promotion to date. More importantly, I feel I’m contributing at a higher level on my team and can be a better resource to my department.” (Katie Butcher)
- “The knowledge around legal doctrine and legal research in the U.S. has made me better equipped to read legal documents, negotiate better terms, and engage with our lawyers in more depth.” (Amir Kabir)
- “The degree has helped me make better decisions and protect myself and my organization from potential liability. It was not my objective to become an attorney, but the legal training I received in the MSL program has provided me with the tools to identify situations where I need to seek advice from our legal partners and has allowed me to have more meaningful discussions with them about our options.” (Tony Gaston)
- “Within a year of graduating from the MSL Program, I was given the opportunity to lead a newly created business development team that would frequently work on both business- and technology-related contracts and IP agreements. In addition to my relevant work experience, I was a better candidate to lead this team because of my combined training in engineering, business, and law. (Joe Lee)
Have an MBA or a background in business? Consider supplementing your business expertise with Northwestern University’s Master of Science in Law (MSL) degree to become a more well-rounded professional.
This story first appeared on the MSL 360 blog.