Archive for October, 2009

Northwestern Announces JD-MBA Professorship, $3MM Funding, and Support of JD-MBA Program

Earlier today, I received an email from the Dean of the law school, Dean Van Zandt, and he gave some really good news. He announced that General Dynamics recently made a $3 million donation to Northwestern Law and the Kellogg School of Management. The donation was in made in honor of General Dynamics recently retired CEO, Nicholas D. Chabraja, who as Northwestern law alum worked at the intersection of business and law for many years.

This gift is the first of its kind and will fund a joint professorship between the Law School and the Kellogg School of Management. Doing so, it will provide the support needed to bring Bernard Black to come teach at both campuses here at Northwestern (Northwestern Law and Kellogg). Bernard Black is really accomplished, it’s great we were able to get him here at Northwestern. The donation also will provide support for the JD-MBA program here, which is amazing news for us current students. As usual it’s great to see Northwestern leading the way in the JD-MBA space. The JD-MBA program here is currently the largest and most integrated joint law and business program in the world and the first to introduce a three-year format.

For more details on the donation and the professor, check out the email from the Dean below. To see the press release that Northwestern put out today CLICK HERE. For more information on Northwestern’s JD-MBA program, CLICK HERE.

To: Northwestern Law Community
From: David E. Van Zandt
Re: $3 Million Gift to Fund Nicholas D. Chabraja Professorship

I am delighted to let you know that the Law School and the Kellogg School of Management have received a $3 Million gift from General Dynamics to honor the retirement of Nicholas Chabraja JD’67 from his position as the company’s Chief Executive Officer.

This gift, the first of its kind, will fund a joint professorship between the Law School and the Kellogg School. It also symbolizes the increasingly integrated fields of law and business and will solidify the strong relationship between the Law School and the Kellogg School and our concerted efforts to prepare students for careers in which these two disciplines converge. The donation also will provide support for our JD-MBA Program, the largest and most integrated joint law and business program in the world and the first to introduce a three-year format.

I am also pleased to announce that Bernard Black will be appointed as the first Nicholas J. Chabraja Professor. Bernie will officially join the Law School in September 2010 with a joint appointment in the Finance Department at the Kellogg School of Management.

Since its formation in 1952, General Dynamics has grown to become one of our nation’s leading defense contractors, specializing in aerospace, combat systems, marine systems, information systems, and technology.

Nicholas Chabraja, also a 1964 alumnus of Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts & Sciences, has enjoyed a distinguished career since graduating from the Law School in 1967. From 1997 until this past June, Nick served as General Dynamics’ Chief Executive Officer and became the longest-serving chief executive among the nation’s top five defense contractors. Since stepping down, he has remained as Non-Executive Chairman of the Board of General Dynamics. Prior to his appointment as Chief Executive Officer, Nick held several other important positions at General Dynamics, including Vice Chairman (1996-1997); Executive Vice President (1994-1996); and Senior Vice President & General Counsel (1993-1994). Before his career at General Dynamics, Nick was a litigation partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block for 22 years. In 1986, he was also appointed Special Trial Counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Nick has been a consistent supporter of the Law School and is a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees.

Bernard Black, a nationally-recognized expert in corporate law and finance as well as health care regulation, currently serves as the Hayden W. Head Regents Chair for Faculty Excellence at the University of Texas School of Law, a professor of finance at the McCombs School of Business, and co-director of the Center for Law, Business, and Economics at the University of Texas.

Prior to these appointments, he was the George E. Osborne Professor of Law at Stanford and, prior to that, he was a law professor at Columbia Law School, counsel to a commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, an attorney at Skadden Arps in New York, and a clerk for the Hon. Patricia Wald of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Black has also served as a policy advisor to the US government as well as several countries throughout the world, including Russia, Ukraine, Indonesia, South Korea, Mongolia, and Vietnam. He has authored or co-authored numerous books and scholarly articles. He received a BA from Princeton, an MA in physics from Berkeley, and a JD from Stanford Law School.

We are extremely grateful to General Dynamics for their generous gift. Please also join me in congratulating Bernard Black as the inaugural holder of this endowed professorship and Nicholas Chabraja on his retirement from a career that has been truly extraordinary.

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Saturday, October 24th, 2009 Business School, Law School 7 Comments

Torts Midterm

I took my torts midterm yesterday early afternoon. For those who don’t know what torts is I’ll briefly explain. Tort law covers the civil (i.e. not criminal) wrongdoings that happen around you, except those happen to be under contractual agreement. It includes all the things you’ve heard of on TV shows like Law And Order … battery, assault, negligence, due care, and more. The classic example of tort law that most professors give at the beginning of class is a “punch in the face,” hence the picture above. And tort law answers questions like is the act a violation, who is at fault, and what is the penalty?

What business students often enjoy about torts is torts’ interplay with economics. In the class we talk a lot about damage calculations, economic efficiency, risk calculations, product liability, and insurance. Many of the JD-MBAs here especially like the “Learned Hand Formula.” This formula is a widely-accepted mathematical model used to test the economic efficiency of a person’s risky actions, and it’s used to determine if someone acted negligently or not. It’s pretty interesting to do the calculation and see how stacks up against what actually happened in the case.

The midterm itself was pretty fun. We had 55 minutes to complete the exam, so it was a mad dash the entire way. The midterm only consisted of one storyline and there three short questions. On any law school exam, we basically have to read the storyline (called a fact pattern), identify the issues, discuss the relevant laws (i.e. tort laws in this case), and then argue for both sides of the case in terms of liability. Midterms usually have dozens of issues, and the more you can spot and discuss articulately, the better off you are. I asked around after the exam, and it sounded like most people typed between 2.5 and 3 pages single-spaced. I ended writing closer to five pages. I am confident that I identified most of the issues. Hopefully the rest of my analysis was up to par.

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Thursday, October 22nd, 2009 Law School No Comments


Hey all, it’s been a few days since I’ve last written my last post. In fact, I think this has been the longest I’ve ever gone without posting since I started my blog. Well, that’s because it’s midterm week here at Northwestern, and everything has gotten pretty busy. Personally, I’ve spent most of my time in the library re-reading legal cases, catching up on chapters I skipped earlier in the semester, creating outlines for classes, discussing cases in study groups, and scrambling to memorize legal rules and theories.

Dean’s Email
Just last week, the Dean of Students, Cliff Zimmerman, sent an email to the entire class, reminding us that midterms were on the horizon. In the email he told us that we’re officially half-way done with our first semester of law school. I think he intended to both congratulate us and to scare us. For me, it seems like we just began the semester yesterday, and when I think about it, it’s pretty scary to be half way through already. It’s also pretty inspiring considering the hours I’ve spent in the library, the number of times I’ve had to start over after not understanding so many of these legal cases, and the sheer number of pages I’ve read for class. This is especially true considering that as an MBA applicant, I didn’t even expect to be in law school this year.

But despite all of these warm and fuzzy feelings about accomplishment, I don’t have much time this week to reflect on the past two months or to be inspired. The idea of having midterms is quite stressful, and the notion of getting evaluated in law school is pretty foreign. Additionally, for the JD-MBA crowd, most of us are a bit older, so the thought of grades is a thing of the distant past. But we’re all hanging in there, and everyone seems to be doing pretty well so far.

First Exam
Just this past Sunday, my section took our first midterm exam. It was a take-home exam, and we had three hours to complete it. While most students seemed to have a pretty smooth transaction, I unfortunately didn’t quite have the same luck. Upon logging into Northwestern’s internal website, I found that I didn’t have access to the test. Initially, I thought it was just a simple technical glitch that I’d be able to fix pretty quickly. But then disaster stuck! After about 20 minutes of not being able to grab the test, I realized that I had gotten locked out of the system and that I didn’t have access to the exam.

I tried my best not to panic and ended up calling the professor on her cell phone (kudos to her for giving it out before the exam) and then emailing her as well as her assistant, the class TA, the IT team, and our academic affairs person. I sat for a couple of hours waiting for someone to respond but to my surprise, nothing came. Instead of taking the test at 3:30pm I ended up not getting access until closer to 9:00pm. It was really tough waiting around, so I tried running to the gym, grabbing dinner, and chatting with a few friends as a distraction. After a really long day, I ended up finishing my exam a few minutes before midnight, which was the final submission deadline.

Second Exam
Just yesterday, we had our second midterm. We took the exam in class, and we only had an hour to get through it. Going in, I felt really well-prepared, because I had kept up with the reading all semester and because I studied quite a bit. I read and memorized most of the rules, took a couple of practice tests, and went though a couple of study aids and outlines, but the test still proved to be a challenge. I was a bit nervous going into the exam, but I was pretty surprised that even after the initial shock, I still struggled a bit, and after a couple of post-exam conversations, it became clear that I wasn’t the only one.

During this whole process of taking my first two exams, I found how easy it was to become flustered. Most of us here in law school and in the JD-MBA program have led largely successful careers, and for most of us things have come pretty easily. But even in my first exam, I am reminded that the thing that most of us have done here at law school so far is struggle. We’ve struggled through cases, through late nights in the library, through thick legal theories that we don’t really understand, and sometimes to try not to fall asleep in class. What I’m learning is that people who are successful in law school have to learn how to learn to struggle well….to keep control in tough situations, rebound quickly from the ups and downs, and retool themselves to finish strong.

Relation To Business
Back in the business world before school, I saw that the high-performing leaders were those who did the same in the workplace. These were the people who adapted quickly to change, dealt seamlessly with ambiguity, responded optimistically to challenges, and leveraged the resources around them to get things done. I certainly felt challenged this way the last two days, and with a couple more exams later in the week, I am doing my best to be resilient.

Finishing Up
This is especially important since later in the week I have a Contracts exam, a Torts exam, and a Criminal Law exam. I really like my Criminal Law professor, so I want to do well in that class. I also really enjoy the material in my Contracts and Torts courses, so I’m interested to see how well I understand everything. I know that the rest of the week won’t be easy but I’m going to struggle through it and give it my best. Law school is certainly more work than I ever expected, but I look forward to stepping up to the challenge and growing personally and professionally as a result.

Fortunately, as a reward after my last midterm exam on Sunday, I’m planning to go grab brunch with a friend here at Northwestern. Should be fun and a nice break from all the hustling around this week.

I’ll let everyone know how the rest of my exams turn out. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, October 20th, 2009 Law School No Comments

Cold Call

One of the things that many business school and law school students fear is being “cold called” in class. Some students think professors are out to get them, others too nervous to speak up in class, and some just unprepared for talk about the case. All those things happen here at Northwestern Law, just like every other school. Fortunately, the population here at the law school is older and more experienced than other law schools, so the students are usually pretty poised and cold calls often go smoothly. Also, the professors here are great. They’re usually pretty accommodating when they engage students in the Socratic method, and they ask lots of leading questions to help us get through rather than make us stumble.

All four of my professors have different styles for cold calling. They all seem to expect different things from us when it comes to level of detail, degree of analysis, and how much they’ll keep prodding after we respond. My Civil Procedure professor likes to go through cases really thoroughly. She expects everyone to be prepared to talk about the tiny little details of the case and then about how they relate to each step in the case process. To be such a technical class, she really does do a great job at illustrating the concepts as part of a bigger story and at keeping things interesting.

On the other end of the spectrum is my Criminal Law professor. He tends to be a bit more easy going about the cold call and at times serves more as a facilitator than a professor. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an incredibly talented professor and is one of the most knowledgeable instructors at the school, but he’s also good at keeping the course interesting and putting students in the position to succeed. Because of his facilitation style, a large number of people volunteer every class. Sometimes, it’s pretty easy to forget who got called on in the first place, which makes the cold call much less intimidating.

My section is about 65 people, so everyone should get called on two times for each class this semester. At Northwestern, there isn’t really a system of being “on call” like some schools have, rather, the process is a bit more random. Some professors go down the list in alpha order and others reverse order. Some just draw a name from the middle of a pile. And others seem to mirror students picked from other classes that week.

Last week, I got called on in Civil Procedure. I didn’t expect to get called on with only a few minutes left in class, but to my surprise I did. I also didn’t expect to get a small obscure case in back of the book, as opposed to the two main cases for class that day, both of which will likely be the core of our midterm. I faired okay, but it wasn’t my best performance. In Contracts, my professor called on me today. It was pretty unexpected, but luckily I got a pretty easy case. As usual, the JD-MBA side came out when I started talking. We discussed the concept of bargaining and talked about how exploitation impacts contractual agreements. For the specific case, I argued that exploitation was okay and that the company with all the negotiating leverage was entitled to win the case. In retrospect, while my comments were probably rational based on the facts they were also “laissez faire” and a bit unsympathetic.

After class, five or six of us went into the atrium and continued the conversation for an hour or so seeing if we could come up with a better answer. But as you might guess, we couldn’t. The cold call specifically and law school generally are often more about reasoning, problem solving, and synthesizing facts, and less about finding the right answer. Navigating this grey area can be really difficult, but discussions typically end up being a lot of fun.

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Wednesday, October 14th, 2009 Law School No Comments

Kellogg MBA and JD-MBA Application Deadlines

I recently received an email from an applicant asking me to post the due date for the Kellogg business school application. Both the Kellogg and the JD-MBA applications are due this upcoming Thursday on October 15. I suspect many of you have been working hard the past one or two weeks turning in applications to a few other top schools but don’t let this stop you from turning in the best application possible this Thursday.

Don’t forget that people will likely be applying to b-school in hordes again this year because of the economy, just like last year, where at many schools Round 1 had a 25%-35% increase. In fact, some people predict this year will be even worse. As such, it’s important to put your best foot forward before hitting the submit button. Generally this means doing things like making sure you actually answer the essay questions, putting the correct school name in your essays, meticulously double-checking the data form for errors and completeness, ensuring that you complied with the essay formatting requirements, ensuring you get the letters of recommendation in on time, and double checking to make sure you’ve squeezed everything possible into your essays. Once you’ve done all that, then you’ve done all that you can, so just take a sigh of relief, submit, and relax a bit because it’s going to be a long season of waiting to hear back. It always is.

I’ll also reiterate something I’ve said in a previous post. If you are considering applying in either Round 1 or Round 2, but not sure if you’re ready to submit to Kellogg this week (or to any school), schools will always encourage you to apply when your application is best. Historically applicants have applied heavily to both rounds, but slightly more people do apply to round 2. As a result, round 2 is often more competitive in terms of the “number of applicants.” My two pieces of personal advice are 1) that you should always put your best foot forward and 2) that on the margin, earlier is better.

For reference, see below for a full list of important application dates. Best of luck to everyone, and I hope to see many of you at Kellogg’s admit weekend this year!

2009-2010 Kellogg Deadlines and Notification Dates

Round 1
Deadline: October 15, 2009
Notification: January 11, 2010

Round Two
Deadline: January 14, 2010
Notification: March 29, 2010

Round Three
Deadline: March 4, 2010
Notification: May 17, 2010

Click here for the official Kellogg page.

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Monday, October 12th, 2009 Admissions, Business School 3 Comments

2010 Princeton Review Law School Rankings

Earlier today, Princeton Review released its 2010 rankings of the top full-time U.S. law school programs. The organization ranks law schools in 11 different categories based on student surveys. This year, 172 law schools were eligible.

Despite long-time criticisms about graduate school rankings, law school rankings still play an important role in the world of legal education. When a school’s ranking drops, fewer admitted applicants accept spots at the school (i.e. yield rate), and budgets are often adjusted. Likewise, when a school rises in the rankings, the school often achieve a higher yield rate and an increase in applications. Northwestern Law more than most schools has historically been quite supportive of the ranking system. The schools believes that it provides one way to measure the school’s reputation and progress toward its overall strategic goals.

See below for a look at this year’s school rankings and how Northwestern stacks up:

First, here are a few of the overall rankings “Career Prospects:”

1. Northwestern
2. Penn
3. Michigan
4. University of Chicago
5. Stanford
6. Boston University
7. Boston College
8. Harvard
9. NYU
10. GULC

Second here are the rankings for “toughest to get into:”

1. Yale
2. Harvard
3. Stanford
4. UC-Berkeley
5. Columbia
6. Penn
7. Northwestern
8. Virginia
9. Chicago
10. Michigan

Third here are the rankings for “quality of life:”

1. Virginia
2. Stanford
3. Chapman
4. St. Thomas
5. Colorado
6. Vanderbilt
7. NYU
8. Oregon
9. Northwestern
10. George Washington

Here are the summary rankings for Northwestern:

Best Career Prospects: #1
Toughest to Get Into #7
Best Quality of Life: # 9 (4th among top law schools),
Best Classroom Experience #10 (5th among the top law schools)

Northwestern has held the No. 1 spot for Best Career Prospects for four of the five years that the Princeton Review has published these rankings. While the difficult economy continues to present immediate challenges to students hitting the job market, this recognition is a testament to our strong reputation. It also affirms our distinctive career-focused strategy and efforts to prepare graduates for successful lifelong careers that will span multiple employers and industries.

As a point of reference, here is how Northwestern ranked in the 2009 U.S. News Rankings:

Overall: 10th
Trial Advocacy: 10th
Clinical Training: 13th
Tax Law: 4th
Legal Writing: 10th
Dispute Resolution: 15th
International Law: 19th
Diversity: 5th

Click here for a full list of Northwestern Rankings.

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Thursday, October 8th, 2009 Admissions, Law School No Comments


Just two days ago, I met a future applicant to Northwestern Law, and he asked me to give him a few pointers on how to stand out in his application and how to talk about his past achievements in his personal statement. Similarly, just yesterday, a buddy of mine asked me to review some essays for HBS, including their staple essay “What are your three most substantial accomplishments and why do you view them as such?” Like the gentleman applying to law school, he also wanted help quantifying his past achievements. And just today, I met with a JD-MBA prospect at Northwestern. I chatted with him for over an hour about his application, and he told me about some of the things he had achieved since graduating back in 2005.  And so moving into the first week of October, “Achievement” seems to be a big theme for lots of people I know.

I’ve also been doing a lot of thinking about my own achievements recently. Having recently returned to the life of a student again, it’s hard not to wonder what type of grades I’ll get, what types of jobs I’ll have over the next few years, and ultimately what I’ll be doing many years from now. Every day, I’m working to achieve as much as possible. Doing so, I can’t help but think a lot about my classmates who are going through the same process. Northwestern Law has a lot of sharp kids, and it’s pretty clear that many of them will achieve a lot in their careers. My entire section spends a lot of time in the library, and as a whole everyone seems pretty motivated. I have one friend in particular who I chat with quite a bit. She has as much discipline as anyone I know in the class. She has a 5am early morning study schedule, a laser focus on getting good grades, an ability to block out all the social chaos that comes with law school, and a commitment to doing what it takes to get a great job upon graduation. I am pretty impressed, and I have no doubt that she’ll do really well and achieve everything she’s hoping to.

My point is that thinking about your achievements is something that successful people do for a large part of their lives. It’s inevitable. Although it seems a bit counterintuitive in environments like Northwestern, where the culture is overwhelmingly team-based and where most people come to leave their egos at the door, Northwestern is no exception to the rule. People here think and talk all the time about what they want to individually achieve.

I remember almost 12 months ago when I first began thinking about my achievements. I had just begun my business school applications. My first step after narrowing down the schools I wanted to apply to was thinking long and hard about every single one of my accomplishments. I was forced brainstorm all my major things I’d done in my life, decide which ones were most important to me, analyze which ones had the broadest impact, quantify how each one impacted the people and organizations around me, and finally sum up all the things I learned from the experiences. I took the process pretty seriously, especially in a year full of b-school applicants, and it took months to organize all my thoughts. But this process really paid off, and I recommend all current applicants do the same. I’ll tell you why.

Conventional wisdom says that your past performance (i.e. achievements) is the best indicator of future performance. The theory is that if you’ve achieved a lot in the past, than you’re more likely to do so in the future. Graduate schools bank on this fact when they’re making admissions decisions, especially MBA programs . For example, if you’ve done well in a relevant job, earned good grades in a relevant major, and received strong reviews in a competitive work environment, then odds are you’re more likely to be better prepared to do well in graduate school and eventually in the workforce again.

But this concept doesn’t just apply to admissions, it also applies to job searching. Right now, all of my business school counterparts at Kellogg are currently re-thinking through their accomplishments, as they’re starting the recruiting process. They’re being asked questions such as What was your role at your last job? What have accomplished so far in school? What did you do as club president? and Why should we hire you? The number of behavioral questions can be really challenging, and during an interview you don’t have time to think about your response and you don’t have the leeway to improvise on the spot. You’ve got to come prepared to talk. And if you can do that well, then you’ll probably do quite well in the interview. But don’t be fooled, once my classmates get a job, it doesn’t end there. They’ll still be doing the same after school when they’re interviewing for their second and third jobs and when they’re marketing their companies, offering their services to clients, running political campaigns, and going through performance reviews.

Ultimately, what I’ve learned since starting my application process more than 15 months ago is that being successful necessitates a very high level of reflection. Reflection on past achievements and reflecting on how to use those to ensure success in the future.  It requires being self aware and understanding how your environments effect your ability to succeed. Your abilities and pitfalls. Your blind spots and the things that you excel in. And also the things that are most important to you no matter what your skill level is.

In my own experience, the more I’ve thought about my experiences ahead of time, the better off I’ve been.  That’s because I believe that the best leaders reflect on past experiences all the time. And not only do they think about their successes but they think about their failures. And that’s why they so often have compelling stories, a grand vision for the future, and are able to achieve seemingly impossible results. And in the end, their reflection gives them an arsenal to draw on … not only to achieve a high level of success but also to help others do the same.

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Tuesday, October 6th, 2009 Leadership 2 Comments

Kellogg Preview Weekend

Hi everyone, I wanted to quickly pass along the information for the Kellogg Preview Weekend. Kellogg Preview is a minority prospective weekend for this year’s Kellogg applicants. I went last year, and it was a lot of fun. It was a great chance to mingle with lots of potential Kellogg students, many who actually ended up at Kellogg. It was also a great chance to see firsthand what it would be like to be a student at both Kellogg and the JD-MBA program. And it was also a good time to do your interview on campus with an admissions staff member.

I plan to be stop by the event this year, so I hope to see some of you there. Keep in mind that if you do end up at Kellogg next year, we’ll be classmates because I’m spending my time at the law school this year and will start at Kellogg in 2010.

See below for official info on our event. If you are considering going, then I suggest you consider signing up soon because last year the event filled up. Also, note that although the event targets a specific audience, it is open to all prospective students.

Below is the official Kellogg blurb on the event. Feel free to use my comment box to ask any questions about the event.


Kellogg Preview: Minority Prospective Student Weekend – November 13-14, 2009

The admissions office along with the Africa Business Club, Black Management Association and Hispanic Business Student Association are excited to once again host this annual event. Over this two day event, participants will enjoy mock classes with Professor Harry Kraemer and Professor Steve Rogers and connect with an assigned KPW Buddy while interacting with students from the larger Kellogg community.

To register for these and our off-campus events, visit our website.

We look forward to meeting you soon!

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Saturday, October 3rd, 2009 Admissions, Business School, Diversity 4 Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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The contents of this blog are mine personally and do not reflect the views or position of Kellogg, Northwestern Law, the JD-MBA program, or any firm that I work for. I only offer my own perspective on all issues.
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