The Economist on the Doctoroff Business Leadership Program

Commercial law
The Economist
October 19, 2013

IT SEEMS that everyone, from Barack Obama down, thinks there is something wrong with America’s law schools. The president questions whether their graduate courses need to be as long as three years. Potential students are spurning them: applications are falling, other than at a few elite institutions. Michael Schill, the dean of one of those top schools, at the University of Chicago, laments that lawyers are no longer making it to the top of big companies as they used to. Surveys suggest practising lawyers are miserable, perhaps because they feel their career prospects are limited.

Many lawyers end up working in business, but their legal education leaves them ill-prepared for this. Apart from a bit of accounting, law-school courses typically contain little that is of help in running an enterprise. So Chicago’s law school has just launched a programme in which students will also take courses from the university’s Booth business school—the world’s best, according to The Economist’s latest “Which MBA?” league table.

One of Chicago law school’s most prominent alumni, Daniel Doctoroff, the chief executive of Bloomberg, and his wife Alisa, a Booth alumna, are backing the initiative to the tune of $5m. The students will learn such things as how to manage and finance start-ups, and how to position a business in a competitive market. Attempts have been made before to bind business and legal education, but there have been few takers. Mr Schill says people may be put off by the extra cost and time involved in pursuing a joint degree. It does not help that in many universities the legal and business faculties are barely on speaking terms: for years, Harvard’s stubbornly kept to different teaching calendars, making it hard for students to register for both schools’ courses.

Michael H. Schill