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Penn Law and Wharton Create 3-Year JD/MBA Degree

September 10, 2008

PHILADELPHIA (Sept. 10, 2008)  - Two of the nation’s top law and business schools - the Wharton School and the Law School at the University of Pennsylvania - are launching an accelerated three-year program leading to both the JD and MBA degrees.

“As the world becomes more complex, leaders must be able to integrate financial, legal, political and cultural issues like never before,” said Michael A. Fitts, dean of Penn Law School.  “From corporate scandals and globalization to crises in the housing and credit markets, there is an obvious need for people with advanced training in the law to be highly skilled in business, and there is no better place anywhere to study business and finance than the Wharton School.

“This will become the leading way to educate tomorrow’s leaders on Wall Street,” he added.     

Thomas S. Robertson, dean of the Wharton School, agreed. “Business today operates in a complex legal and regulatory environment. Success requires the ability to navigate through this landscape,” he said.  “Penn Law, with nine Ph.D.s in economics and two MBAs on its faculty, is able to teach law informed by the considerations important to business.  This three-year program and its demanding curriculum will be irresistible to top students, who also will have access to the exceptional networking and career opportunities that both Penn Law and Wharton provide.”

Students in the new program will spend the first year in Law School and the following summer in four Law and Wharton courses designed specifically for the three-year JD/MBA. The second and third years will include a combination of Law and Wharton courses, including capstone courses in the third year and work experience in law, business, finance, or the public sector in the summer between the second and third years.

Penn’s three-year JD/MBA is the country’s first fully integrated three-year program offered by elite law and business schools on the same campus.  The new program will target potential applicants who will typically have around two years of work experience, whether in law, finance, as entrepreneurs or in investment banking, private equity and related fields.

“We expect that all sorts of people with business experience will apply,” said Edward Rock, co-director of Penn’s Institute for Law and Economics, the Saul A. Fox Distinguished Professor of Business Law, and an architect of the three-year program.  “Some will want to pursue corporate law or corporate finance while others are likely to go in different directions.  All of them will be able to navigate and lead in the worlds of business and of law, because this is the best way to prepare tomorrow’s business lawyers.” [View an interview with Professor Rock.]

Applicants must be admitted by both schools in order to enroll in the three-year program.  Students in the joint program will be required to meet the Law School’s mandate to perform 70 hours of supervised legal work in a pro-bono setting in order to graduate.

The new program solidifies Penn Law’s position as the leading cross-disciplinary law school in the country.  Penn Law already offers 10 other three-year joint degree programs that combine a law degree with master’s degrees in bioethics, international studies, education and other disciplines.  In total, Penn Law offers more than 30 joint- and dual-degree and certificate programs; one-half of its students take classes outside the Law School; and 70 percent of its faculty hold advanced degrees in fields other than law, including nearly one-half of the standing faculty holding a Ph.D.

Wharton is the largest business school in the world, with more than 200 standing faculty in 11 departments, including finance, accounting, real estate, health care and more.

The three-year JD/MBA program is expected to enroll about 20 students each year, beginning in September 2009. 

“For a student interested in business law today, it is essential to learn corporate finance,” said Professor Rock. “In this combined program, students will be able to complete a full MBA including, if they wish, a major in finance, at the same time as taking numerous advanced courses in corporate law. The graduates of the joint program will be qualified to do just about anything at the boundary between law and business: corporate law; investment banking; private equity; hedge funds; real estate; and more.”

Paul S. Levy, a 1972 Penn Law graduate and a former managing director at Drexel Burnham Lambert, recalled that on his first day at Drexel, he was asked to calculate a bond’s yield to maturity.  He quietly called a friend with an MBA to help him figure it out.

“A JD/MBA from Penn Law and Wharton will help graduates do much more than calculate yields,” said Levy, now the senior managing director and founding partner of the New York-based investment firm JLL Partners, one of the leading private equity investment firms in the country.  “Increasingly, lawyers are CEOs of major corporations, leading figures in private equity, investment bankers and so on.  To prepare tomorrow’s lawyers in ways that will enable them to move effortlessly into business and finance, it is clear that a variety of Wharton courses will serve as an invaluable supplement to the more traditional law courses.”