Three-year program, entrepreneurship legal clinic underlie joint efforts by business and law schools
Feb. 15, 2006
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Developers wanting to turn a historic limestone mill into a creative mixed-use development needed help researching the feasibility of a unique combination of tax credits. Cook Group, a global leader in developing health care devices, wanted assistance with mapping patents in a select area of stem cell research.
Four computer science students at Indiana University suddenly needed legal guidance after developing a new software application for video games.
All have been initial clients of a new legal clinic housed in Indiana University's Kelley School of Business. The clinic is one result of a unique partnership between the Kelley School and the IU School of Law-Bloomington. This fall, IU will become only the second university nationally (after Northwestern University) to offer an accelerated, three-year joint program for those seeking both law and MBA degrees.
It is a partnership between two acclaimed programs. The law school was ranked by
"Law schools have always had clinical opportunities for students who were interested in litigation or prisoner rights or child advocacy. Strangely, there are very few clinics available for students who want to practice in business law and transactional law," said Timothy J. Boeglin, IU visiting clinical professor of law and director of the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic.
Staffed primarily by JD/MBA students, the clinic operates like a small business-oriented law firm serving start-up companies and early-stage businesses, many of which also are served by the Kelley School's Johnson Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Boeglin, an IU alumnus formerly an attorney in Chicago and a successful entrepreneur, returned to Bloomington in 2005 to direct the clinic and shape the new three-year degree program.
"By providing legal and business research to emerging growth-oriented companies in Indiana, the Entrepreneurship Legal Clinic will support economic and entrepreneurial development," said Donald F. Kuratko, the Jack M. Gill Chair of Entreneurship and executive director of the Johnson Center.
Corey Zarse, 29, a fourth-year JD/MBA student from Chalmers, Ind., said the clinic has been revealing in helping him to understand the issues entrepreneurs face. "The clinic provides exposure to businesses at different stages, which helps students relate to different issues involved at different stages of development," Zarse said.
IU and other universities across the country have been offering combined degrees in law and business for some time, but all have required four years to complete. William Henderson, associate professor of law, said the rationale for the new three-year JD/MBA program is the reduced opportunity costs and time costs to students to complete the advanced degrees.
"The time required to complete an advanced degree is a serious barrier to recruiting students who are already in the workforce, which is the market for MBA students," said Henderson, a member of the ELC advisory board and the three-year JD/MBA program task force. "While this is a lesser issue for very recent college graduates, the primary market for JD students, it may become one, especially if two-year JD programs begin to proliferate."
"The opportunity cost of that fourth year for them is significant when they are earning the kind of salaries that they are earning after four or five years in the business. It is very attractive to them to get both of those degrees in just three years," Boeglin added. "That's really the driving force, to make it as attractive as possible for those who have a lot of work experience, who can bring that valued experience back into the classroom."
Students will start the program during the summer prior to the traditional first-year start of law school and they will continue to take classes during the first summer break. Between their second and third years, students will have traditional summer employment in business or law. The capstone experience in the Entrepreneurship Law Clinic utilizes both the students' business and law knowledge and training.
The idea for the three-year program at IU came from two current students, Zarse and Mark Horvick, as they worked last winter with Boeglin to establish the legal clinic. Boeglin challenged Zarse and Horvick to fully research the proposal and come up with practical solutions to the myriad of issues raised by such a program.
Adoption of the program took less than a year, and it was unanimously adopted by the faculties of both schools. Unlike Northwestern's program, it was achieved without reducing the number of credit hours required to graduate.
The role of lawyers in many companies has changed. Gone is the corporate attorney who doesn't have a say in larger management issues.
"Lawyers who serve entrepreneurs and who serve corporate clients are increasingly expected to understand the client's business and to speak the language of business -- just like their clients who increasingly find that they have to understand much more of the legal landscape than they ever have in the past," Boeglin said. "The market is recognizing that this is a really valuable degree and a valuable skill set.They do not want legal advice in a vacuum."