Owen Clarke is a senior tax analyst at Deloitte Canada. He recently completed a juris doctor and a master of business administration at the University of Calgary. He obtained both his law and business master degrees simultaneously as part of the Haskayne School of Business’ joint JD/MBA program, and is now articling – a mandatory training year required after students complete a law degree in Canada.
“I wasn’t interested in going the traditional route,” says Clarke. “I wanted to use my knowledge of the law to facilitate business. That’s what led me to complete a joint JD and MBA. The combined skill set from this program was instrumental to securing my articling position.”
While Clarke was learning about foundational legal principles, he was also learning how to interpret financial statements and becoming familiar with economic modelling.
The end result? A commercially-astute lawyer who can quickly get up to speed on client issues and problems while applying the law through a business-savvy lens.
“I interact with business owners on a daily basis,” explains Clarke. “If I only understand the law and don’t have a strong understanding of their business, I’m not as useful as a lawyer.”
The Haskayne School of Business’ JD/MBA, the university’s most popular joint MBA program, was launched in response to industry needs for legal graduates who could understand the workings of a business and offer practical applications of the law.
The program is one of six combined MBA degrees offered by the Haskayne School of Business. It also offers combined degrees with the Cumming School of Medicine, the faculty of social work, the faculty of environmental design and the School of Public Policy. The MPP/MBA (master of public administration), launched in 2014, is the only one of its kind in Canada.
“These joint master’s degrees produce graduates who are able to deal with more complex issues,” says Michael Wright, associate dean, graduate programs, Haskayne School of Business. “They have a working knowledge of a particular discipline along with managerial skills and business acumen.”
In Canada and the U.S., joint MBA programs are on the rise. The growth can, in part, be tied to the meteoric rise in popularity of the MBA degree which made its first appearance in 1900 at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth. The first Canadian MBA program appeared at the University of Western Ontario in 1948. By the late 1970s, every major provincial urban centre in Canada had at least one institution with an MBA degree offering. Today, more than 40 Canadian universities and hundreds of schools in the U.S. offer MBA degrees.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, of the 759,000 master degrees conferred in 2014-15 by post-secondary institutions in the United States,184,000 (24 per cent) were in the field of business. More MBAs were conferred than any other field of study.
The MBA is argued to be the most successful educational product of the past 50 to 100 years.
The degree has been and continues to be popular at the Haskayne School of Business. In 2014, 485 students, nine per cent of all graduate students, were enrolled in the program.
In recent years, Haskayne has introduced joint MBA programs and innovative centres and partnerships that attract students by providing cutting-edge learning opportunities.
Launched in 2013, the Hunter Centre for Entrepreneurship offers academic research programs focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. As of September 2017, the school is also partnering with Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), a program that helps projects transition from pre-seed to seed-stage funding. CDL is available across five national locations, with each location offering unique streams and resources to support early-stage ventures in scaling.
Haskayne MBA students are eligible for the Creative Destruction Lab-Rockies program. If they are accepted into the program, they are paired with one of the ventures in the program and are required to complete two courses during which they learn about the early-stage finance process. Students also help their venture complete a series of assignments designed to help the firm accelerate its development.
This partnership was especially attractive to Kurtis Vallee, a first-year JD/MBA student.
“My objective is to become a lawyer,” says Vallee. “More specifically, I want to provide legal and business advice to small business owners and professionals. The CDL was an important factor in my decision to pursue a JD/MBA with the Haskayne School of Business.”
Vallee is also eager to volunteer at the Legal Centre for Business & Technology, based at the University of Calgary’s faculty of law. The centre offers a legal clinic where students have the opportunity to work with new businesses in the early stages of development, tech creators interested in commercializing and entrepreneurs with creative venture ideas.
By enrolling in a joint MBA program, Vallee can expect to complete both degrees six months sooner than pursuing them independently.
“One of the benefits of a joint degree is that students can complete two degrees in less time than it would take them to complete the two degrees separately and at a lower cost,” says Wright.
When asked to reflect on the ideal candidate for the joint MBA programs, Wright mentions, “There is no typical profile however we find that most students who enroll in the joint programs have a vision of what they want to do with their career including an understanding of how management practices will further their career.”
Vallee is one of these individuals. He knows where he wants to go with his career.
“I opted to do a JD/MBA because I felt that completing both programs concurrently would give me the education and experience I would need to reach my professional goals,” explains Vallee.
Individuals like Vallee and Clarke are a very small minority on campus. In 2014, only eight students completed joint MBA degrees, four of which obtained a JD/MBA.
It’s safe to say that Vallee and Clarke stand out amongst their peers.