Be a Creature of Land and Sea with a YLS Joint Degree

November 11, 2013

K.L., 2L

Students sometimes compare Yale Law School to a fish tank, but a better view of YLS is as an ocean—sometimes our professors guide us through depths of an idea never before visited, but the YLS ocean also contains a magnitude of reefs, sandbars and multidirectional currents. Even the most devoted student would be hard-pressed to explore every niche of YLS in three years. Yet the world is also more than an ocean—beyond the ocean exist the other schools and departments of Yale University, expansive kingdoms of land.

Any law student at Yale has the option to either enroll in (and receive law degree credit) or audit classes from Yale’s other schools after the first semester. Some students, though, seek something more—a formal program that allows them to learn to the fullest extent in whatever area outside law might pique their interest.

Such students have two options: applying to the joint degree program simultaneously, or applying laterally once admitted to the Law School. Although I considered joint degrees in my initial application, I concentrated on law and only at orientation decided to pursue a joint degree as a J.D.-M.B.A. student.

Outside the J.D.-M.B.A., I have friends pursuing J.D.-Ph.Ds. (e.g., in history) or J.D.-M.E.Ms. (with the forestry school). Yale offers many institutional joint degree options, but other students decide to construct their own joint degrees. (One friend is toying with the idea of pursuing his J.D.-M.F.A. with the theater school.)

As far as the J.D.-M.B.A. goes, the accelerated program allows us to receive two degrees in three years. As a fellow J.D.-M.B.A. calculated, the opportunity cost of missing a year of law school is much less than the benefit of studying the School of Management (SOM) core curriculum and understanding basic economics, accounting, negotiating and strategy. Because I plan to run a non-profit in the future, having both degrees seemed a natural fit.

Law students always ask me about SOM, and business students always ask me about YLS—they each think the grass is probably greener on the other side. What I love about straddling the line between two schools is how different they are and how much I gain from two opposite educational experiences.

Law school is individual-oriented, but much of business school is group work. Law school assignments are often long-term papers, but business school assignments rely on numbers and data, and we have assignments due almost every class. Law professors love hypotheticals and drilling to the base of a point, but business school professors love practical examples and making sure everyone understands principles and how they apply in different industry contexts. In law school a few students often talk for most of the class, whereas in business school more students make briefer points. No one school is better or worse than the other—at both we study cases, and students at both are out to change the world for the better.