The million reasons lawyers go for MBA!
Updated: Jul 18, 2020
Hi guys! Nikunj here.
I’d like to think of myself as many things - a lawyer, a blogger, a 99.76 percentiler (CAT 2019), and a PGP student at IIM-Bangalore (2020-22)!
But most importantly, I think I am funny while being insightful and so this is my personal take on “The million reasons lawyers go for MBAs”.
By the end of this article, you will realize I am also an exaggerator.
Important alert! - If you are a Chartered Accountant, Lawyer, Economics or Commerce graduate who wants to make it to the B-School of your dreams, don't forget to subscribe to The Unconventional MBA!
Having grown up in Delhi, I always expected the No. 1 question posed to me would be “Bhai clubbing chalega?”. Unfortunately, my appearance and demeanour both answer this question way before it can be asked.
Instead, the most frequent question I faced over the past year or so went something like this “Why the hell do you want to go for an MBA after law?” or the evergreen “Pagal ho gaya hai kya?”. I assume the second one is related to the first.
Who asks these questions? Everyone. My relatives, my friends, the lady who does the dishes, the guy who delivers the newspaper and the Uber driver who loves to eavesdrop. Oh and every interviewer I’ve ever met (they’re way more respectful about it though).
While the reasons have always been clear to me, how convincing they actually were to various panels is a different question altogether.
In my case, my interest in the MBA programme began during the 3rd year of law school when I started learning about Marketing Management (I was enrolled in a 5-year BBA LLB programme). I had always been interested in the subject and learning about the marketing process and its impact on our daily lives amazed me.
After law school, I started working in the field of Trade Marks and Copyright, working with some amazing people and protecting some really cool brands from counterfeiters.
But there’s only so much you can do from behind the desk of an attorney. You can protect brands, but can’t develop them. I was restricted to advisory roles but I wanted to take the big decisions. And that was that.
But that’s my reason and all lawyers have their own. We’ll talk about a couple of them here (while being as frank as possible). Also, if you’re a lawyer, do let us know if we missed any and we’ll make sure to update this list.
Reason 1: Engineers don’t have a monopoly on career dissatisfaction
Let’s face it, 18-year olds aren’t the best at making career decisions. In fact, many opt for a 5-year commitment just to go with the flow. Their reasons for doing anything might be just as dubious as their internet history.
Now the legal field can be extremely rewarding, but extremely draining as well. Litigation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea and many don’t enjoy law firm culture either. In such cases, an MBA opens the door to a much-needed career transition. In fact, the MBA degree is known for its versatility. Technically, you could go from target-setting carbon emissions one day to selling Bhujiya the next. It teaches you not only to survive but to thrive in the unknown.
If you think about it, we wouldn’t have cashless transactions if a certain lawyer from Stanford Law hadn’t quit his job at Sullivan & Cromwell (PS I’m talking about Peter Thiel).
Reason 2: Pay raise
If you saw Suits and thought that all legal careers are filled with glamour, you’re dead wrong. Apart from a limited number of roles in top tier M&A firms, the legal field just doesn’t pay that well (at least not for the first few years). Monthly stipends in litigation can be as low as Rs. 5000 a month in some places which means that working 14 hours a day in Delhi could actually net you a loss.
If that came as a shock to you and you know a friend who litigates, be generous – rob a bank! Hire your friend to defend you and be sure to pay him for his/her services. You’re practically a modern-day Robin Hood!
Reason 3: Marketing!
All lawyers are marketers if you think about it! While we can't advertise, we market our side of the issue in such a way that the judge has to ‘buy’ into it. This analogy, though forced (I realize it too), might be more accurate than you think.
Judging by the tiny sample set available, it appears that a lot of Law + MBA grads (including me) are partial to this path. After all, who wants to read caselaw all day when you can sell chips and Harpic!
Lawyers also tend to be incredibly social and network well which (I assume) translates well into sales.
Reason 4: Interest in HR roles
Knowledge of workplace and labour law is essential for any individual interested in HR and an in-depth knowledge gives a clear edge. Is it any surprise then that XLRI (the foremost institution in Human Resource Management) has almost a dozen law courses in its syllabus?
Lawyers with a specialization in HR could also be a huge asset to law firms which are famous for their high rates of attrition. You can read more about the combination of law and MBA HR on Ishita Saxena's post lined here.
Reason 5: To stay in the legal field
It sounds counter-intuitive. I know. But think about it – as a lawyer’s career progresses, his/her role becomes more and more managerial in nature. Many dream of operating their own firms or leading the in-house legal department of a large MNC. In either case, management education becomes a stepping stone. This is also why many lawyers go for an executive MBA later on in their careers. Remember P. Chidambaram? He got his MBA from Harvard.
If that’s your cup of tea, look no further than our esteemed contributor Alok Shah, the General Counsel at OML Entertainment (read his post linked here).
Reason 6: Value add for commercial/transactional attorneys
A lawyer’s advice can play a tremendous role in the decision a client takes. An MBA helps lawyers to effectively step into the client’s shoes and render advice while taking more than just a cursory feasibility analysis into account.
The value-add here is huge and helps them gain an understanding of the client’s business far greater than what would normally be learnt on the job.
Reason 7: Having a legal background works really well in highly regulated industries
Certain industries face more extensive regulatory requirements than others. I’m talking about the likes of Aviation, Telecom, Insurance, etc. Having a lawyer in charge of the decision-making process could mean the difference between higher revenues and greater penalties (along with the bad press that usually follows).
In a perfect world, senior-management could just run things by the legal department, right? Technically yes. However, the ability to make active inputs during the decision-making process is what makes a manager with a legal background stand out. Just look at Aditya Ghosh’s feats in IndiGo if you’re looking for some inspiration!
And that’s all I could think of for now. I know the heading promised a million reasons but 7 is close enough right?
Let me know what you think!
IIM Bangalore (PGP 2020-22)
Interested in learning about how to approach the CAT? Check out our Strategise the CAT series here!