where business and law schools meet…

Recently, I had a discussion with a student at Santa Clara University’s School of Law who is also pursuing an MBA at the Leavey School of Business.  There are only a few joint degrees at Santa Clara, and the JD/MBA is one of them.  However, to put it simply, it’s a bit haphazardly organized.  I believe that up to 6 units can be cross listed; the rest of each program has to be taken in its entirety.  That part is actually pretty standard as compared to other joint degree programs around the country.  What is a bit off is that it seems that for every student there is negotiation about which courses are credited across the two programs.  For one student, courses A and B are accepted by both schools.  For another student, it’s X and Y.  

More importantly, however, law students seem to be unsure about what classes to take to embellish their JD.  The MBA, presumably, will contribute to the education they are already receiving about law.  But while there are concentrations for MBA students (leadership, finance, etc), there isn’t anything like “classes a law student interested in intellectual property might want to take” guide.

Well, as I have made it through the MBA program and have taken a LOT of classes (2 years in, I’ll have done…I think 66 units out of 70 required), primarily in management, I have my own commentary about what classes at the business school might pique the interest of a law student. Because students can pursue so many different areas within the field of law, I’m going to focus on Intellectual Property and Social Justice, and follow this post up immediately with my “top 5 classes” which also contribute to the impact of a business education in conjunction with the law (for the most part).

Intellectual Property

Santa Clara’s School of Law is particularly strong in the field of intellectual property – not surprising considering the proximity (surroundings?) or Silicon Valley.  There are a number of courses at the business school that are useful for students pursuing intellectual property law.

Management 524 – Managing Technology and Innovation (with Mank)

I took this class I think about a year ago and it’s easily in the top 5 I’ve had.  It’s a heavy workload, but it’s case-based, and should be fairly familiar in format to law students.  Of course, the cases are 10 pages long, not Supreme Court decisions that have shaped our nation’s history so the reading isn’t as intense but it’s still about analysis and knowing what measures to use when.  Click on the link above for the full review of the course.

IDIS 612 – Management of the High Technology Firm

As one can see from my review, this is really a bunch of guest lecturers.  But they are great lecturers, and the course is what you make of it.  Not surprisingly, many of the speakers are people who have been CEO’s of start-ups at their outset (when the road is the most bumpy and it’s all about who can get what technology out first) as well as some when the company has been mature (where stability, protecting one’s intellectual property and other issues become harder).  Almost all speakers are undeniable leaders in their field, and gaining knowledge from them is not insignificant.  

IDIS 696 – Social Benefit Entrepreneurship

The 696 courses are all “experimental” so there are about 15 of them but with different actual topics. So this is a specific 696 course.  This one “cross-lists” into the Social Justice field, too.  But if you’re studying intellectual property, wouldn’t it be interesting to know what it’s like to help get something as simple as a water pump off the ground as a product in a country with no infrastructure and laws that are never enforced?  The concept of intellectual property is completely altered.  Importantly, however, just because there is a corrupt government and the product is low-tech doesn’t mean that protecting IP isn’t important.  It still is, it’s just that now it’s the whole package – development, distribution, marketing, personnel – that is the product.  And the company that can put that type of IP together will succeed.  This is about redefining the scope of an “idea.”

Any case-based course

Marketing 553, Chacko’s Finance 455 (or any of his courses) – if the class is case based, then it’ll be of benefit to any law student, I think.  When one looks at cases, it’s about where the rubber hits the road.  How did Gillette address its growing market in Indonesia?  What actual, practical tactics did they do to address their needs?  Why are hedge funds allowed to operate the way they do?  These courses break free from the purely intellectual analysis and puts things in practice.  I would gladly drop a class to a different point in my overall planned schedule if it meant I could get a case-based version of it.

Social Justice

The Law School has several “centers,” and the one for social justice and public service is a notable one.  Some of my commentary below will apply to any students that pursue work at the Northern California Innocence Project, I would think.  

IDIS 696 – Social Benefit Entrepreneurship

As I mention above, this course is about helping companies trying to bring about the basic needs of humanity – clean drinking water, secure food supplies, etc – to the areas that most need them.  Not much else needs to be stated here.  However, the precursor to 696 SBE is…

IDIS 705

This isn’t really a good one to include since…it’s required.  But this course if half about social justice (and is what led me to the SBE course) and half about ethics.  Sadly, the 4 hours spent on the latter is the only curriculum dedicated to ethics in business and it’s somewhat half-assed at that, but at least it’s there.

Management 516 – Organizational Politics

At first, I was going to leave this out because it’s one of my top 5 and I didn’t want to mention it too often.  But for anyone that wants to work against the numerous “systems” out there that put innocent people in jail or bring about ills to society rather than solutions, understanding the psychological side of organizational dynamics and politics is pretty darn important.  If one wants to survive in a world that is more bureaucracy than logic, this course is required.  And it’s the #1 must-take course on my list. 

Marketing 566 – Small Business Entrepreneurship

I haven’t even taken this class but I’m recommending it.  This is one of only two courses other than Capstone that have you do an actual business plan.  This means you have to think about the idea, the marketing, the finances, etc.  And while most students will put this in the context of business and not the law, doing the latter can certainly make for an enriching experience.  It’s kind of the opposite as 696 SBE – there, there are no laws so one has to rethink the concept of IP.  With 566, while the deliverable isn’t about the law, all that one learns in the course, seen from the eyes of someone who is taking law classes and especially those wanting to be involved in Social Justice, could be meaningful.  

I hope that I will be able to add to this list as I spend more time thinking about what I have learned in my various courses.

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