Lawyers and MBAs are like oil and water, right? Think again…

Written on March 7, 2014 by Caroline Quintanar in News

Sabine H

As we prepare to welcome the 4th class and greet alumni from the first three cohorts, one of our current students, Sabiene Heindl, IP lawyer and strategic business advisor, reflects on one of the many facets of diversity in the IE Brown EMBA.

Lawyers and MBAs are like oil and water, right?  Think again.  An increasing number of lawyers are enrolling in Masters of Business Administration (MBA) across the globe.  As an Australian intellectual property lawyer, doing a MBA hadn’t occurred to me a year or two ago.  Now I find myself based in Europe undertaking the prestigious IE Brown Executive MBA across Spain, the United States and South Africa.  The following why, as a lawyer, you may wish to consider a MBA, together with some tips and perspectives to help you make up your mind.

Tips for lawyers:

  • If you have reached a pinnacle in terms of your technical legal skills, then a MBA can build on your management skills and prepare you for a leadership role
  • MBAs can provide an essential stepping stone in a legal career or enable a pivot onto a different career path
  • It’s important to choose your school carefully, but don’t limit yourself geographically
  • Like every other large undertaking in life, doing a MBA is a balancing act, so be prepared to juggle work, life and now study….

MBA: the gains

What can a lawyer expect to gain from a MBA?  From my perspective, the advantages of a MBA are:

  1. Leadership skills that can prepare you for partnership or a leadership position within your firm
  2. Broader perspective on the operational elements of business including finance, operations, marketing, strategy and IT – this is particularly helpful if you are working as in-house counsel
  3. Opportunities to consider career options outside of the law
  4. Cross industry perspectives on the businesses of your clients
  5. Opening up networking opportunities internationally

Balancing act

Of course, like everything that’s good in life, undertaking a MBA is a balancing act.  An increasing number of top MBA programs are run as blended programs, that is, residential face-to-face periods interspersed with an online learning campus.  These provide more flexibility for busy executives that have a day job (eg practicing law) and personal and family commitments.  But don’t be fooled.  25-35 hours a week of study on top of what may already be a 50-60 hour work week, will take its toll.  If financially feasible, consider options around part time work for the duration of the program (usually between 15-18 months) or recognise that you seriously won’t have much of a life!

So whether you want to jump ship from your legal career or have a desire to bridge the gap between private practice and commercial thinking, a MBA is worth considering.  Spend lots of time researching business schools across the globe to ensure that you find one that is a good fit with your career goals and aspirations.  Happy studying!

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