With top international corporations demanding more than ever from new recruits, in terms of practical as well as academic excellence, the need to adapt accordingly has been passed onto business and law schools to provide graduates with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed.
With this in mind, Clifford Larsen, Dean of the Master of Law and Business Program (LLM/MLB) at Bucerius in Hamburg, Germany’s top ranked law school, designed a program to bring together lawyers and business people.
“Time and time again over many years in practice and in academe, I have observed that lawyers desperately need business skills in order to be able to advise clients properly and to gain a comparative advantage over their peers. Similarly, businesspeople, in order to maximize their chances of success, need some knowledge of the legal system as well,” Larsen told The Local.
The resulting Bucerius program offers two degrees: the Master of Law and Business (MLB), open to both businesspeople and lawyers, which emphasizes the law-business combination, and the Law and Business degree (LLM), in which a student with a first law degree can focus somewhat more on legal issues, while still obtaining important business skills.
The unique LLM /MLB curriculum, now in its ninth year, is based on three fundamental principles: it is interdisciplinary, international and career-oriented.
“You learn most when you have a curriculum that intertwines the two disciplines not only academically, but also through the student body. Students can thereby learn not only from their professors, but also from each other,” said Larsen
He added that bringing together different nationalities also helps – over 80 countries have been represented since the program was first introduced.
The spine of the curriculum sees the students follow the life-cycle of a business enterprise and pursue both the legal and business aspects of its development, from start to finish.
After the orientation program and introduction modules help get the lawyers and businesspeople up to speed, the students focus for several months on the “life-cycle” of a business enterprise, from both a legal and business perspective.
They learn about creating an entrepreneurial idea, deciding what legal form a new enterprise should take, and how to finance the new enterprise. Students then follow the development of that enterprise, perhaps to a listing on a stock exchange or to an internationalization of its activities.
“The Program requires that students, both lawyers and businesspeople, get their hands dirty with the real-life, practical legal and business aspects of an enterprise. Our goal in the first part of the Program is to give students a wide range of perspectives on the development of an enterprise, before students take their elective modules," said Larsen.
These elective modules allow students to deepen their knowledge in additional areas of law and business, such as Mergers & Acquisitions, Corporate Finance, International Arbitration, Corporate Restructuring, and others.
In addition, the Program focuses on the “soft skills that employers repeatedly indicate that they find lacking in candidates for top positions. These skills include negotiation techniques, presentation skills and inter-cultural training, all of which are particularly important for professionals working internationally.
A business and legal Ethics course, as well as a Program social project, which can involve helping the homeless in Hamburg or mentoring underprivileged students, are designed to prepare the students for other types of challenges they may face in their careers.
Blending different facets of academic and professional life is a recurring theme throughout the entire program.
“Our teaching staff consists of a good mix of both professors as well as practitioners from major international corporations, law firms, and international governmental organizations.
"Representatives of start-up enterprises also teach within the Program,” said Larsen, who added that the students enjoy this diversity of perspective and find it helpful to them when pursuing their own careers.
Students also take part in a mandatory internship program, thus giving them practical experience and exposing them to business and legal professional environments, both within Germany and beyond.
Program students benefit from Bucerius’ strong international reputation, especially when pursuing career opportunities after the Program. Future employers, from start-ups to global corporations, trust the high calibre of training their new recruits will have received and the close attention they have been offered in groups of only some 40-50 students per year.
Bearing in mind the Program’s fine facilities and central location in one of Germany’s most thriving cities, it is little surprise that many graduates tend to look for careers close by, rather than heading straight home.
In some senses, the globalization of the professional jobs market theoretically makes it easier to find the right career these days. But one of the very first lessons any business or law student will learn is that it helps to have an edge, something that sets you apart.
A Master of Law and Business or LLM from one of Europe’s top educational institutions is a very good place to start.
This article was produced by The Local and sponsored by Bucerius Law School