About Me

A New Year … and Now A New Blog

Last September, I finally made the big jump. I left my post at a full-time consulting firm in Boston and decided to head off to business school and law school. Like most students, I saw school as the perfect opportunity to pursue my dreams and eventually make my way to the top.

Blog
But at the same time, I felt compelled to start a blog so I should share my experiences with others. Like many new endeavors, the blog was both more fun and more work than I expected.  So I decided to put together a site and spread the word a bit and worked hard to keep posting.  Soon found that I really enjoyed the process, and  I became committed to keeping it running.

Change Is Good
Six months later–and just a few weeks ago today–I came to the realization that my blog was reaching a bit of a transition point. Although my site was only about six months old, I decided I needed a better website to host it on given the number of visitors I was attracting and given recent challenges I came across with the old host site. I also thought my blog was starting to feel a bit more focused over time. So I thought I take a step back and then try to adapt the content a bit in order to best serve me and my readers.

So What’s New?
1. So here’s what new: First, I’m hoping to put a lot more effort into writing about the readers want.  Feedback from readers suggests that you’d like more answers to questions. So I invite you to send all your questions about Northwestern, whether about admissions, about law or business school generally, about the recruiting processes that happen here, or  career options stemming from both.

2. Next, I also hope to better balance the amount of tactical information I write about better with the higher level advice that I enjoy. In past posts, I’ve usually posted about one or the other, but I look forward to telling more integrated stories and sharing other types of information.

3. I’ve noticed that many of my readers visit pretty frequently. So I’ll try to balance my longer more interesting articles, with shorter ones to keep the content moving.  To do this, I’ll integrate shorter posts about activities and events here on campus as well as links to related news stories and articles.

4. As you may have noticed, three themes have really emerged on my site,  and I intend to keep incorporating them heavily into my writing. 1) The differing values and skills that JDs and MBAs bring to the table, and how they can work together to achieve better results. 2)  The importance of good leadership in the workplace and some of my reflections on the topic  3) The idea that “business is human” and that financial decisions and human resources decisions don’t always have to be so disparate.

But don’t get me wrong. despite my idea to focus, I’m pretty certain my new site will still evolve over time. In fact, I I hope that it does.  But hopefully those twists and turns will be learning experiences and they will both provide me with some pretty good life lessons and with the stories to narrate here on my website.

And in the end, I hope the blog will become valuable to more and more people, and I hope that the benefits bestowed up my reader’s will be just as great as the rewarding experience I’ve had as a student and as a journaler. I look forward to sharing my experiences along the way.  Stay tuned ! And post a comment or two to let me know what you think.

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Friday, January 15th, 2010 Leadership 5 Comments

Reflecting On The Economic Challenges Of 2009

2009 was an interesting year. I left my consulting job in the spring after finally deciding to return to business school and law school. And what timing! The financial crisis had just struck and the fear of recession left all of the business world scrambling. At the same Barack Obama had just made political and legal history with his historic presidential election. I was pretty excited at the chance to study these economic and political events, especially since I’d be enrolling in a JD-MBA program. But it became hard to remain so excited as I watched layoffs, bankruptcies, and unemployment begin to take over.

Ever since the past summer, I’ve tried to keep up with the news, chat with my classmates, and solicit perspectives from industry professionals trying figure out exactly what’s going on. To be honest, I’m still not 100% certain, maybe not even 50% certain of everything that’s happening, as I’m by no means an expert on economic or labor issues. But I suspect that one’s viewpoint is pretty correlated to their experiences in the labor market, and sometimes it can be hard to see outside of that perspective.

For example, I had a discussion with a classmate from the investment banking industry (economics defines this as skilled labor) during the first week of class. We were discussing how recruiting was supposed to be down 40% – 50% this year, and his perspective was that everyone should really embrace the situation. That hard times create new opportunities, give new learning experiences, and spawn new ideas and companies.

In a second conversation, I talked with a family member who works in a position that earns an hourly wage (economics defines this as unskilled labor) and his employer had cut back his hours. Because of his situation, he empathized a lot more with those who were unemployed, and he suspects that the recovery will be a longer and a more difficult process, and that speeding it up requires a more of a collaborative effort to help people to find jobs. I think both perspectives are pretty valid.

But whether or not you agree with either perspective, the common denominator is that we are in pretty tough times now and that recovery will depend both on a collaborative effort and a willingness to consider new opportunities to solve the problem. Until now, MBAs have been contributing to the recovery mostly by forecasting unemployment rates, analyzing spending patterns, and predicting the market turnaround. And JDs have been looking at similar issues, but focusing on finding ways to use their technical skills with the law and policy skills to create change.

My opinion–for what it’s worth–is that given certain structural problems in the modern economy, many of these financial and legal tactics, while useful, may ultimately prove to do nothing more than to cover the wound, rather than address the bigger cultural issues that in recent history have influenced our levels of consumption, debt, and greed.

If business and law schools want to continue to play a role in the recovery, they should reflect on how these issues fit into the country’s top priorities. Over the last few decades, MBAs have flocked to the finance industry and law school graduates to corporate law (a field that works directly with the finance industry) both lured by six-figure salaries that are 3x (and more) the average wage. In return, these smart graduates have worked in roles that emphasize getting things done over learning, charge excessive rates for services, and structure deals to maximize profit. And because there was so much profit, other industries looked up to the industry and soon followed suit.

This mentality eventually made its way into the mortgage industry, and needless to say, as soon as its companies began to offer credit, Americans began to borrow. A lot. They applied for new lines of credit, bought new homes and cars, and got big screen TVs and went on vacations. Unfortunately, this era of growth was in some respects artificial. In the end, people overextended themselves financially, and eventually found themselves in too deep once the economy slowed.

In November, the media and administration became optimistic again and claimed that we were rebounding from the crisis and that jobs would be back in no time. I’m not so sure I agree. From my perspective, it seems as though there are far too many people out of work now, and the average length of unemployment is closing in on a year in some locations, a number will stay on the rise given the decreasing number of jobs.

One thing I’ve learned in the past two years watching much of this unfold is that one of the most important resource a company has in the long-term is still its people. And that resource needs to be prioritized right alongside profitability. This is true especially in challenging times because even when profits and the stock market are down, the stock of a company’s employees can be up. People can collaborate to come up with new ideas, they help a company adjust, adapt and change with the markets, they learn and implement new technology and promote innovation, and they can work together to accomplish more than their individual capabilities.

Unfortunately, the majority of Americans aren’t afforded the training or education to fine tune their management or critical thinking skills, so they end up in lower paying jobs, can’t save their money, remain in deep debt, and can’t positively impact the economy, while only a minority of Americans at the top thrive. Not only is this socially troubling but many also argue that in the long run it may also economically less productive.

This is certainly the view of the Obama administration, which is why the president wants to focus more on education and training and make decisions based on longer-term public investment. In his view, the economy does best when all Americans have the chance to increase in skill and contribute to the market. Many people agree with him ideologically but many also object because of the costs and the up front time investment.

Obama is also working with companies to adjust compensation plans to make them more fair and to reduce layoffs in the workforce, both of which are controversial with economists. Maybe his strategy stems from the idealism or aversion to risk that comes along with being trained as a lawyer. Or perhaps it’s easier for him to think that broadly since he’s not feeling the pressure of a collapsing industry on his shoulders. Perhaps it’s also because his shareholders are comprised of the broader population, and not financial investors, so his policy incentives are different. Who knows? But the interesting part to me is that both the policy (JD) and economic (MBA) perspectives seem critical in analyzing economic recovery.

And so both MBAs and JDs can play a major role in helping save the economy. As MBAs continue to look for profitable deals, invest in companies, and architect executive pay plans, they are also called to leverage profits to create jobs, use investments to steer innovation, and think more broadly about human capital and not just executives. Similarly, lawyers also have dual obligations. And instead of simply relying on facts and mitigation of risk to make decisions, lawyers must think more critically about the issues. They need to weigh the economic issues with the resulting social issues, think about how those issues affect a broader range of people, anticipate a wider range of possible outcomes, and then balance risk with those outcomes to come up with new policy plans.

Easier said than done? Perhaps. Brokering a balance between profit and social value, when there are diverse points of view and competing agendas is rarely easy. To lead America down that path requires leaders who are not afraid of change and who deeply believe that social values are just as important as economic value. I suspect that given our economy, more people will be open to change and aware of social values than ever before.

Personally, the recession has certainly forced me to reflect on change. Having old colleagues, friends, and family members directly affected by the market has made me more empathetic to those still in the workforce, especially those who don’t have education as a buffer.

Society should also take time to do some reflecting. And perhaps in 2010, society will decide that instead of focusing so much on pricing strategies and stock market gains, it will also start to focus on creating opportunities for education, promoting generosity in the midst of competition, and maximizing human potential, and not just profits. And in the end, perhaps these will pave the way for recovery to a more stable economy.

Business schools and law schools should welcome the opportunity to be at the forefront of this change.

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Motivation For The Second Semester

Although my classmates and I have only finished one semester of law school so far, it feels like we’ve been there for a lot longer than that. As 1Ls, we’ve already experienced some of the busiest workloads that we’ll probably ever seen in school. We’ve spent hours pouring over Westlaw’s website doing research for our writing class. We’ve spent even more time in the library reading, outlining and studying for classes. We’ve taken part in a number of school and club activities. And we recently finished a dreaded law school final exam period.

After such a long semester, it’s really nice to have winter break now. For most students, winter break is a great way to relax and completely forget about school for a couple of weeks. For many of my friends, this means turning off the alarm clock and lying in bed for a few extra hours. Other friends are traveling throughout the US and some even outside the country. I personally have spent most of my time catching up with old friends, hanging out with family and my two year old niece, and doing some reading. But in just a few days, most of us will have to shift gears again, because school begins just one week from today.

So while all of us will still be relishing the finals days of vacation later this week, we’ll also have to start getting motivated for the second semester. This means finalizing travel arrangements, researching books and supplements for class, preparing resumes and cover letters for recruiting, and perhaps doing some reading before classes. And while none of these activities are singularly difficult, it’s pretty easy to put them off after a really long first semester and after the really short winter break we get at Northwestern. It will definitely take motivation.

One thing I learned last semester is that motivation is critical to doing well in law school. There are too many pages to read, too many concepts to learn, and too many students competing for top grades to do well without it.

One way to stay motivated is to think about the things that made you excited when you applied to law school and the things they want to get out of school. In law school, students are often motivated to achieve top grades, to work at a certain firm or agency, or to challenge themselves academically. In business school, students are often motivated to transition into a certain industry, to gain certain professional skills or experience, or to take two years to figure out exactly what to do. Personally, I tend to find my motivation from the academic challenge and from gaining specific skills and experiences.

For some, finding this motivation and working hard may come more naturally, but for others it could take a bit more work. This is especially true in today’s economic environment where recruiting numbers are significantly down and pessimism about job prospects reigns. It may also be true for certain law school students once grades come out in mid January.

But in my opinion, the horrors of grades and job prospects are not unique to today’s law or business students and should not significantly influence our motivation levels. Students have dealt with these issues for decades, and many have ended up at the best firms and most prominent positions. So more important than grades and recruiting statistics, students should try to keep an eye on the big picture and stay focused on the higher things that intrinsically motivate them. Whether they are compelled by a higher purpose to lead, a desire to change the world, an aspiration to give back to your community, or even the desire to achieve economic gain. And in my opinion, this last factor can sometimes be just as compelling as the others. For example, I have a friend at the law school now who is motivated to work hard and make a lot of money with the purpose of supporting their family after school.

And the good news for everyone is that any meaningful purpose you have will require more than a semester’s worth of effort and a single set of grades. So in the end, no matter which of the categories we fit into or how our first set of grades turn out, winter break serves as a good way to have a little fun, reflect, and find a higher level of motivation for next semester.

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Monday, December 28th, 2009 Law School 5 Comments

Thanksgiving Weekend

Hey everyone, I hope you all were able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving weekend. Not only is it a great day to indulge a bit in some of your favorite dishes, drinks, and desserts, but more importantly it’s also an opportunity for many of us to see our families, friends, classmates, and significant others to reflect on the past year and spend a moment or two thinking about being thankful. For some of us students, it may seem like it’s a bit more difficult be thankful for with the current unemployment rates, deferrals being handed out by firms, and final exams lingering, but the mere fact that you’re sitting on a computer reading my page, aside from all the basic things like having a good meal, suggests that we have a lot to be thankful for. Definitely something to think about for students as grades and recruiting results play out over the next few weeks, for applicants as you start to hear back from graduate school programs that you’ve been dying to get into, and for everyone else as you’re trying survive these odd economic times.

While the Thanksgiving holiday brought a nice long weekend getaways for many folks out there, here in law school some (though not all) of my classmates decided to stay local, given that we’ll all be going home in just a couple of weeks after finals anyhow. Many of the folks here had small gatherings near campus. Some went out to the suburbs to visit friends from Chicago or to see family there. Other folks who typically don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, just had a normal day of relaxing and studying.

As for me, this year, I spent the weekend here in Chicago, given that finals begin fairly soon. My thought was that taking 3 or 4 days completely off would be a bit imprudent, especially considering that I don’t tend to get much done when I head home for holiday breaks, and that a good number of friends would be around in Chicago anyhow. So on my Thanksgiving, I actually did a lot of reading yesterday afternoon, had dinner with an old college buddy and his family just outside the city, and capped off the night by spending some quality time chatting with a friend afterward. I plan to use the rest of the weekend to do some reading, outlining, and studying.

It’s hard to believe but next week will be the last week of classes in my first semester of law school. It’s funny how fast it feels time is going by here. Most people here are ready for the semester to be over, but I suspect the next three weeks will feel really long, perhaps just as long as the first twelve weeks felt. In fact, I like to think of it like running a mile marathon. And just because you’ve run 23 of the 26 miles already, doesn’t mean you can just take off and sprint the last 3 miles. Even the fastest runner still has to pace himself and manage his energy, so that he can finish as strong as possible. But either way, should be a pretty interesting process to through my first law school exam period, and probably a lot of fun that night once we all finish. But for now, time to get back to the books.

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Friday, November 27th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

MBTI Type, Careers, and Leadership

Having started a JD-MBA program this year and having just got back from the NBMBAA Career Fair over the weekend, I’ve recently been thinking a lot about career goals and trying to get a sense of which way I should be headed, especially given that two sets of career options will be open. I’ve thought a lot about consulting, law, and finance as well as some other non traditional career paths, such as becoming an entrepreneur or going into some kind of public service. A lot of people in both business and law school have trouble defining what kind of work they want to do or what field appeals to them. Many of us choose jobs or fields based on the prestige level or future earnings potential, but we quickly find out that the industry is not a good fit or we quickly burn out. I think that understanding your personality type can be helpful for analyzing what may or may not work for you.

As part of my first year of law school, the incoming class took an MBTI test. I suspect I’ll also take one next year at the business school. If you don’t know much about it, the MBTI test talks about your personality and designates you with a 4-letter code across 4 categories. Here are the basics of the 4 categories:

Favorite world: Do you prefer to focus on the outer world or on your own inner world? This is called Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I).

Information: Do you prefer to focus on the basic information you take in or do you prefer to interpret and add meaning? This is called Sensing (S) or Intuition (N).

Decisions: When making decisions, do you prefer to first look at logic and consistency or first look at the people and special circumstances? This is called Thinking (T) or Feeling (F).

Structure: In dealing with the outside world, do you prefer to get things decided or do you prefer to stay open to new information and options? This is called Judging (J) or Perceiving (P).

Statistically, lawyers (and law students) are slightly more likely to be introverts than extroverts. They also tend to be intuitive more than sensing, thinking to feeling, and judging to perceiving. The irony for me, is that I only align with lawyers on 1 out of 4 (Intuitive). I am curious to see how my type stacks up in business school. I suspect that more kids in business school will be “E” but that I’ll still be a bit different in terms of the other categories. I think in general, business students tend to be more sensing and judging, as they rely more on logic and firm decisions than they do on intuition or on the human element. That said, I think there’s a place for all sorts of leaders in both the business and legal communities.

Aside from career preferences, MBTI type is also a great tool to use to start thinking about your professional leadership style, which ultimately may be more important to your long-term success. Leading at a consulting firm, a bank, a law firm, or a public service enterprise is not about performing tasks or giving orders to employees. Rather it’s about working with and through employees at various levels of performance and various levels in the firm hierarchy. It’s about maneuvering a group of peers who may question your decisions and even your position in the organization.

To do this well, leaders must be both self-aware and empathetic ….. understanding their own moods, motivations, and tendencies, and recognizing and appreciating those of others. The MBTI test helps you understand how people take in and act upon information. If you can understand your preferences and others’, then you can reach a broader audience, communicate in a way that others find compelling, and inspire them to act.

As I embark on my leadership journey, I plan to try to keep my type in the back of my mind as well as become more adept at interpreting the preferences of others around me. Here is a little more about my type.

My Type
ENFP

Designation
ENFP is usually designated as “Inspirer,” “Champion,” or “Change Agent.” I’ve always been an ENFP, and I really do think the description is spot on.

Description
Warmly enthusiastic and imaginative. See life as full of possibilities. Make connections between events and information very quickly, and confidently proceed based on the patterns they see. Want a lot of affirmation from others, and readily give appreciation and support. Spontaneous and flexible, often rely on their ability to improvise and their verbal fluency.” (Click Here For My Resource)

Leadership Style
ENFPs are energetic and enthusiastic leaders who are likely to take charge when a new endeavor needs a visionary spokesperson. ENFPs are values-oriented people who become champions of causes and services relating to human needs and dreams. Their leadership style is one of soliciting and recognizing others’ contributions and of evaluating the personal needs of their followers. ENFPs are often charismatic leaders who are able to help people see the possibilities beyond themselves and their current realities.(Click Here For My Resource).

My Comments
To me, the description of this type is spot on, especially the “recognizing patterns,” “making connections,” “using verbal fluency,” and the focusing on the human element descriptions. Ironically, my MBTI seems to be better suited for an entrepreneur, public service professional, or politician than for a lawyer or business person. The good news is that I’m quite interested in all of those possibilities. The bad news is that despite my interest, there is a lot of pressure to come out of school a lawyer or business person upon graduation, at least for a few years. Not only do I have lots of loans to figure out how to pay off, but I also think that getting some solid legal and/or business experience at a top firm will be invaluable. I’m curious to see how everything plays out.

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Monday, September 28th, 2009 Law School, Leadership 2 Comments

1st Semester Classes

This semester, I’m taking Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law,  Civil Procedure and Critical and Legal Reasoning (CLR), which is Northwestern’s writing requirement.  Here is a brief synopsis of each of the courses. I’ll note that although I’m in the JD-MBA program, I am taking courses with all of the law students this semester.

Contracts
Contract law is the study of promises, exchanged between individuals and/or organizations. In the class, we’ll learn a lot about contract theory, and discuss things such as breach of contracts, consent, disclosure, incentives, and contract terms. This is a very useful class for JD-MBAs, and a subject matter I’ll use in most any of my career path I undertake.

Torts
In torts, we discuss civil wrongdoings NOT arising from contracts. Doing so, we’re looking at how courts determine settlements and perform payout valuations for different crimes, the latter which is often of interest to JD-MBAs. This class is more theoretical in nature, and while it may not directly relate to many of my potential career paths, it does give you practice reasoning through problems, synthesizing details of long cases, and assessing qualitative and quantitative information to come up with a solution.

Criminal Law
This course covers topics such as criminal responsibility, the significance of actions, intent, causation, and the rationale of punishment. The great thing about this class is that you spend the entire semester talking about really hard topics, navigating through gray areas without right and wrong answers, and taking a stand as you have to make argument about these issues. These are very useful skills in any profession and are abilities you must have to be a good leader.

Civil Procedure
This course is about the rules and standards that courts follow. It’s more black and white than the other courses, but still useful. For those interested in law, you need to know everything in this course. For those headed to business, you’ll get a lot of experience collecting data, focusing on details, getting the right answer, and understanding the importance of using a framework. Both consulting firms and law firms have a large appreciation for process and for frameworks.

Critical and Legal Writing
In this course, we’ll learn the writing skills that lawyers need to practice law – researching relevant information, analyzing complex problems, and writing and oral skills to present those solutions to a client. The ability to articulate and to persuade are broad skills necessary to be a leader in any career.

Overall
Overall, my law school courses not only teach you about the law but also help you broad develop a set of professional skills–the ability to communicate effectively, the ability to address multiple, conflicting points of view, and the capacity to solve complex problems. This proves the law degree is quite versatile and the skills and knowledge I gain from these classes will be very useful, both inside and outside of the legal profession.

As a reference point for those who want to go into business, consulting firms tend to hire lots of law school graduates. For example, I’ve seen estimates that Mckinsey has more than 300 consultants with law degrees. These folks have joined the firm at various points in their careers and all on the track to partner positions, if not a partner already.

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Saturday, September 5th, 2009 Law School No Comments

First Day of Law School

After eight months of impatiently waiting and two weeks of chaos during orientation, it finally happened. Just Monday I began my first day as a JD-MBA student at Northwestern Law. I can already tell it’s not only going to be an incredible journey but also a long one. For one, I’ve got about 1,000 days until the bar exam, should I decide to take it. I’ve got another 200 or so days until my last day as a 1L. That will be a huge day of celebration. I’ve got about 100 days until my first midterm. I’ve got 2 days until my first “official” bar review. And finally, I’ve got at least another 10-12 hours or so until I can leave the library and go home from school today. I look forward to all of it.

It all started this past Monday, when I began my first class at 8:45 am. Before class, everyone was on Facebook and Twitter posting about heading to their first day of law school. I did the same, and got a really great response from all my facebook friends. My first course was Contracts As a JD-MBA student I love contracts, because the topic sits at the intersection between both business and law. The class will be quite practical in the long run, and even now it makes a lot of sense for me, since I drafted contracts regularly at my old company. The MBA side of me came out right away in the first class, when we were discussing the idea that contracts are “promises”. While most people in the class were talking about friendships and “Moral Obligation” (a term often used in contracts), I couldn’t help but bring up the notion of incentives and how those affect contracts. Personally, I believe that most of what we do in life is driven most by incentives, incentives for money, incentives to be liked, incentives to manage relationships, etc.

After Contracts, we had Torts. More important than why the name of the class is Torts, which I don’t actually know the answer to, is the fact that our professor is a rockstar. Professor Speta is a great speaker, is as sharp as they come, and is definitely a good entertainer. He employs the Socratic method and case method for the entire class and always seems to have an agenda for everything he does, including the specific person he calls on. In fact, he reminds me a lot of the professors I encountered visiting HBS, another school I considered attending.

My last class of the day was Civil Procedure. The class was a lot better than I expected, and a lot less dry as well. In fact, I think it may end up being one of my favorite classes. Although even if it weren’t, I couldn’t say so. Our professor just so happens to be the wife of the school Dean. So we’ve got to be extra nice all semester long.

But more than all the classes, what we did on Monday was get to know our section team members. Northwestern believes that the first step to a great career is having a strong team foundation. Developing relationships with members in your section is an important process. And although that will take time, the fastest way to start this process is through shared experience. This is probably part of why school gives us so much work so quickly.

Coming from a business background as a JD-MBA and former consultant, this topic is not new. Having worked on a couple of human capital engagements in the past, I’m quite familiar with the perceived benefits of shared experiences and with team-building activities. It’s been two days so far, but so far my section seems really great, friendly, and of course, very diverse – a staple of Northwestern Law. I look forward to working with them over the next 9 months.

What’s also great is that the JD-MBAs are pretty evenly spread among all the sections. My section has five or six and the other sections have anywhere from five to eight. While we try and succeed at integrating in the sections during the day, the JD-MBA crowd is very close. We started a Google Group list back in March, so we’ve been in touch daily ever since then. Also, we’ve already had a couple of huge gatherings before school began, including two that I organized and hosted during orientation. It’s definitely going to be a great couple of years together.

But for now, I’ve got to stay grounded in the here-and-now, because I still have massive amounts of reading to do for today, tomorrow, and Friday. It feels like I’m drinking from a fire hose, but I’m sure I’ll figure it out. Everybody does.

Anyhow, thanks for reading my first official post as a student. Please keep reading and feel free to comment as I continue to share perspectives on my JD-MBA experience.

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Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009 Law School 3 Comments

NBMBAA Scholar Award

Hey all! I just found out today that I won one of the NBMBAA (National Black MBA Association) Scholarship Award. Basically, the NBMBAA scholarship program was established to assist M.B.A. students to succeed in business school and beyond by giving them a bit of tuition assistance as well as providing them with ongoing mentorship, networking opportunities, and career opportunities. To be considered, I had to submit an application this past spring, of which the essay carried the most weight. The application also included the typical items such as a resume, data form, and short answers. I chose to write my essay about the MBA admissions process and what schools can do to better recruit and retain black and minority candidates. I actually spent quite a bit of time on the essay, partially because I really wanted to win but also because the topic is of real interest to me.

It’s definitely an honor to be selected to this competitive program, especially this year where money is limited and where NBMBAA told me during my final interview that only two applicants would be chosen. It’s also great because means that I’ve now won both the NBMBAA and the NSHMBA (National Hispanic) award, which is a huge honor. Click here for my post on NSHMBA. Finally, it’s a relief, because I really thought I had a mediocre interview a few weeks ago. The lesson learned here is that you should always fight through interviews, maintain composure, and never get discouraged, because you never know what the other person is thinking.

In addition to the scholarship money, the scholarship package includes a one year membership to the organization, round trip airfare, hotel accommodations for two nights, and conference registration. The conference should be a lot of fun and great for networking. For all those who qualify, you should definitely consider applying for the NBMBAA scholars program in the future.

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Wednesday, August 26th, 2009 Business School, Diversity 9 Comments

A World Apart

Hey everyone. So I just arrived in Chicago this past week. It’s definitely a lot different here, and a world apart from Phoenix, where I spent the summer, and from Boston, where I spent the past two years. Fortunately, I won’t have to deal with any more 100 degree weather. I also don’t have to deal with having a car, since I’m living in downtown Chicago which is a nice convenience.

First off, the area is pretty interesting. My apartment sits less than one block away from Lake Michigan, and the picture above is taken right from the window in my room. Surrounding my apartment is all of downtown Chicago, which consists of lots of really nice apartment buildings, Northwestern’s 20+ acre downtown campus, the beach, and the magnificent mile. If you don’t know that magnificent mile, it’s a world-renown shopping district that goes through the city of Chicago. It has all the top shopping spots, nice restaurants, tons of people in the summer, and lots other of things to do.

My building is about a 4 minute walk from the law school campus, which sits adjacent to the Kellogg Executive Campus (downtown) and the Med School campus. Generally, in the morning students are hustling about through the city to go to class and professionals are walking or taking the metro to work. In the summer, people are always outside, either running, tanning on the beach, swimming, or just enjoying the warm weather while we have it, since Chicago does get extremely cold in the winter.

It’s a big change to be headed back to school again after a few years off. I’ve spent a lot of time in the law school since I’ve been here. Not everyone is here on campus yet, but when you enter into the law school, it’s a surprise to see people in jeans and t-shirts and starring at laptops rather than taking in all the city has to offer, especially in the summer. But I’d expect nothing less at law school. The kids seem to be a bit more serious than the b-school kids. They’re definitely sharp, but they also seem to want to work really hard. And since law school grading is based on a curve, it seems like we’ll all be spending a lot more time in the books than I will be next year at Kellogg.

In terms of facilities, the law school building is nothing like that of Kellogg. Kellogg is actually pretty old for a business school, though fortunately a new building is in the works. However, the law school has some of the most attractive physical facilities of any law school and the best location of any major urban law school, since it has prime real estate downtown less than a block from the lake and beach.

School wise, this week I’m doing a summer preparation program that Northwestern has, which is sponsored by one of Chicago’s bigger law firms. The point of the program is to allow a handful of the students to get a head start on how to prepare for law school. Basically, we all had to apply to this program a few weeks ago, and the school accepted about 30 of us. Today was the first day of the program, and we are learning about things such as outlining, briefing cases, performing the Socratic Method, and other similar things. All these things are pretty foreign to me, since I’ve been in business the past few years.

But despite being a world apart, I’m pretty excited to learn a bit about the legal industry. I plan to post a little about my experience in this program later in the week. Stay tuned!

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Tuesday, August 18th, 2009 Business School, Law School 5 Comments

Starting Over

In two days, I’ll be packing up my things, heading to the airport and moving to the windy city (i.e. Chicago) to start a new journey in the Northwestern JD-MBA program. Similar to when I went off to undergrad years ago, I won’t be taking much with me except a few suitcases full of clothing and other personal things. I’ll be starting all over again. While most people don’t go as empty handed as I am, I think starting over is a common theme for the majority of business school students. I’ll explain.

People apply to business school for all kinds of reasons and with all kinds of goals in mind, both personal and professional. But they can usually be narrowed down into two broad categories, 1) those who know exactly what they want to do upon graduation, and 2) those who have a few ideas in mind but aren’t really that sure. The first reason includes people who want to go into a certain industry, work for a specific company, or have a very unique job role that requires specific training to accomplish. Often these folks have a career change in mind but not always. Sometimes they just need the degree before they can start over at work in a new role. The second category is made for career changers. These people know they want to change their careers but they aren’t quite sure where they want to go, so they want to use school to explore, learn, reflect, and have access to a variety of careers after school. No matter which category you fit into, you usually come to business school to start over.

Most of the Northwestern JD-MBAs I’ve met so far fall into the second category. I think this happens for two reasons. First, it’s because the law degree, unlike the MBA, is tailor made for career changers, as it opens up the entire legal industry that you would otherwise be prohibited from. As such, students are less likely to put a stake in the ground right away. But it’s also because getting a JD-MBA reflects the fact that you have a wider set of career interests, which fortunately the dual degree opens up. Despite writing very pointed essays about our career goals, usually more specific than our MBA-only counterparts, and convincing admissions from both school offices of why we need to obtain both degrees, many of the JD-MBAs still want to make sure they have put their dual degree to its best use. With career prospects in both business and law and in jobs that might otherwise be harder to obtain without a JD-MBA, this is pretty understandable.

I usually consider myself to fit somewhere in between those two categories. Although I have more than one potential career in mind, I have a pretty pointed idea of where I’m headed after school. But like many of the other JD-MBAs I know, I’m going to keep an open mind about it because I don’t want to cut off any options until I have time to do more research and experience new things.

Over the past year, I’ve learned that there are a lot more careers out there than most of us usually consider, and that sometimes it can take a long time to really figure it all out. That’s why all of us in grad school will be inundated by career fairs and encouraged to take different personality and career tests. My advice to applicants and students, is don’t feel rushed into making decisions early. Explore a wide variety of careers and see how they stack up against your values, personality, and your skills. You’ll be surprised at how many options turn up and what different things seem to appeal to you. More than 12 months after beginning the application process myself, I’m still doing some exploring.

Personally, I’ve come to enjoy the process of looking into careers. I think it has a lot to do with my personal interests in careers, employment, general management, and leadership. But it will be a lot more fun to continue my career research with new classmates, with new friends, and in a new city. In fact, that’s part of what the b-school (and law school) experience is all about, discussing your ambitions, values, interests, and career goals with people in the same decision-making process as you are. It’s a great opportunity, and I’m looking forward to finally getting started after eight months of impatiently waiting. In sum, I’m look forward to starting over.

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Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 Law School 4 Comments

Early Career MBA & JD-MBA Applicants

I recently came across an email from a reader who’s looking into JD-MBA programs. She’s currently beginning her senior year in college, and she asked me to provide her with some general advice for applying to JD-MBA programs. So I wanted to take a few moments to share “some” of my answer here and also discuss the idea of early career MBA applicants, which definitely has been getting a lot of buzz the last few years.

Good afternoon,

My name is (removed). I am currently going into my senior at (Removed) University. I have always showed a strong liking for law and legal studies and have always favored business due to the fact that it’s forever changing, and there is always something new to learn regardless of which direction one may choose. As my senior year approaches I am looking into continuing my studies rather than taking time off, working and then jumping back into them. As I was doing some research, I came across your blogs and found them quite informational. It seems that you have accepted your offering into the JD/MBA program at Northwestern and as someone about to embark on the journey of applying to various business schools and law schools I would like to know your thoughts of the process. I have looked into Northwestern’s JD/MBA program and it is one of my top two schools since I have found only four/five that I genuinely feel are perfect matches for me. Since you were once in my position can you give me any advice that will be helpful to me as I begin my application process?

I look forward to your insights. Thank you for your time and consideration.

Hi (Removed)

Thanks so much for writing and for checking out my blog. I’m glad you find the information useful and that you’re interested in JD-MBA programs and interested in Northwestern’s dual program.

I’ll try to provide you with a bit of information, though I’ll keep much of it general, given I don’t know many details about your profile, and because you’re still completing your undergraduate degree.

Business schools have traditionally preferred applicants like me (with 4 to 5 years of work experience) over those like you (with less work experience) The idea is that someone who has more professional experiences is better equipped to contribute to class and section discussions, and also can better understand much of the practical business coursework. Having visited a number of schools and sat in on classes at each of them, I think that older students did add more to the classroom dynamic and discussions. But it wasn’t true in every circumstance.

Statistically, this preference has especially been true at Kellogg, where the average years of work experience is closer to five years, and where traditionally very few applicants have ever been taken straight from undergrad. In fact, reportedly a few years back, Kellogg didn’t accept a single student straight from undergrad. That said, although Kellogg has not completely followed the trend of seeking out younger candidates, they have expressed some interest in the idea. According to Beth Flye in 2008 in an online chat, 15-20% are younger candidates (which she defines as 2-3 years of experience) and on the record, she said that Kellogg would like to see more applications from more of these top candidates.

Although I headed back after 4 years out (will be 5 years when I matriculate at Kellogg) I actually considered applying for an MBA two years out of school. Unfortunately, that idea was not in my control and it was  short-lived because the start-up firm I worked for suddenly went out of business. Although I was definitely set on going back to school early, in retrospect, it worked out well. Not only did I gain some interesting experiences afterward, but it’s also pretty clear to me that I’m better prepared to head back now after my additional work and community experiences.

Although this is true for most applicants, MBA programs have still been trending down in terms of preferred years of experience. Today, many of the top schools strongly consider applicants with 0 to 2 years of experience as much as they consider older applicants. Of the elite schools, Stanford, Harvard, and Sloan are taking younger kids in hordes, and they’re doing it even moreso today than they did a few years ago when I thought of applying.

If I had to give advice to younger applicants when applying, first I’d say that stats are likely going to be relatively more important for you to be admitted. Since on average, you have less work experience than older candidates and thus less professional experience to draw from (as I also did when I considered applying), schools will want to see evidence of your intelligence through high grades and stellar GMAT scores.

Additionally, just because you have less professional experience doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for leadership potential. In fact, it’s probably just the reverse. Schools still want to see evidence of your leadership and decision-making in extra-curricular activities and in internships. And because you’re younger, they may even want more specific and more recent examples.

Third, I’d also say that as a younger applicant, it’s possible that admissions may want you to have a higher percentage of quantitative coursework. That’s because you won’t have work experience to serve as a proxy, and because it also might serve as good evidence of how you would fair in the first year of an MBA program.

But after these things, I suspect that you’ll probably be assessed like every other candidate based on your b-school “story,” on your short and long-term goals, on your discussion of why you want/ need an MBA, and your answer of Why now?

That last question, “Why now?” often gets neglected by applicants, which I think is a mistake in applications, especially in competitive years where “now” is really important for some applicants. For you, the difference is that you’re story must answer the question, why now right after school, as opposed to why now, 4 or 5 years out of school?

In comparison to business school, many JD-MBA programs have always welcomed applications from candidates with less work experience. This is because these programs balance the respective profiles of the universities’ business school and law school, where each school really is quite different. While business schools usually prefer a couple of years of experience, law schools have traditionally taken students with little or no work experience. As such, admits at some JD-MBA programs have a pretty low average age, though the actual statistics depends on the school. The Northwestern JD-MBA for instance has a typical average of 4.5 to 5.0 years of experience, which is pretty closely aligned with general MBA population. The four-year program at U-Penn has been pretty similar.  However, I know of 4 or 5 schools off hand that encourage applicants straight from undergrad.

To me, all of these differences emphasize the importance of finding a good fit when applying. Although many applicants hear the word “fit” every time they discuss MBA applications, it is important to ensure you apply to and enroll at a school that is the right fit for your professional and personal aspirations. Once you find that school (or those schools), then my personal opinion is that you should give applying a shot. And to do that,  you need to work on getting your story together, and then on putting together a quality application. Both of those processes can be really rigorous, but when you’re ready to go back, it’s always worth it.

Good luck if you decide to do so this year. And good luck to all those considering JD-MBA programs and early career applications.

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Monday, August 3rd, 2009 Admissions, Business School, Careers 8 Comments

Last Day of My Summer Internship at the Attorney General’s Office

To gain some exposure in business and law before beginning my JD-MBA program this fall, I’ve been clerking at the Attorney General’s office. I began there in May, and today was my last day in the office. I also looked into business jobs, but since I’ve been in the consulting industry for the past 3.5 years I thought a legal internship would be more useful, especially since I want to explore the legal profession while in school.

In my internship I had the chance to work with the Community Services Division, the Consumer Information Division, and the Executive Office–where I spent the majority of my time. It’s been a great way to learn broadly about the work the AG does. Being in the executive office has also been a lot of fun. A few weeks ago, the Attorney General had a going away party for one of workers at his house. It was a nice event, and I got to really talk with the Attorneys on a personal level. I’ve also had the chance to help manage the press in our office, to have a Q&A with a Supreme Court Justice, and to help orchestrate a meeting with the AG and Obama’s newly elected “Border Czar” (Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security).

Aside from the obvious learning and networking benefits, I also think my experience will give me a heads up on recruiting in the program. While many law students pursue government or legal aid positions after their first year, I’ll have the experience to be able to explore other types of work since I’ve already done that. I definitely recommend that everyone try to get a good summer experience before going off to school–whether business or law–to set you apart in your graduate school career search.

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Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009 Careers No Comments

Article On Me and MLT in the Phoenix Business Journal

So I recently got a call from a PR firm. It was good news.  Apparently the Phoenix Business Journal wants to do an article on me and my experience in MLT. Pretty cool, right?  I thought so too. The journal talks a lot about some of the movers and shakers in Arizona, and they were interested in my professional experience and how that fit in with Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) over the past year. I don’t know what the final ratio of content on me vs MLT will be, though it should probably be slanted more toward MLT given its great accomplishments, but it doesn’t really make a difference. Should be pretty interesting to see what they say, and cool to have a small spot in Arizona’s biggest business magazine. I’ll be sure to post the article link here once it comes out.

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Friday, July 17th, 2009 Diversity 6 Comments

MBA in this economy

Is it a good time to get an MBA? Can you ride out the recession during school or will you graduate with 6-figure debt and no job? This is the question many b-school applicants and admits have been asking all year long. In fact, after chatting with hundreds of admits since January, I found a good number who turned down schools they preferred to attend to go to schools that offered more scholarship money. This is especially for minority admits who received Consortium Fellowships this year—for those who don’t know, a Consortium Fellowship is a full or half tuition stipend that certain schools have decided to award to minority applicants in order to attract them to their schools–as well as other select scholarships. Furthremore, others have decided to keep working through the summer to save up money for school.

In my personal opinion, I suspect that MBAs at top schools have little to worry about in terms of landing a job–even more true for JD-MBAs. While students will certainly come out with a lot of debt, their skills and marketability will be at a premium a couple of years from now in a better economy. Fortunately, despite the current economy, the majority of my MBA admit friends have not gotten laid off from their jobs. Also, a lot of my friends at b-school have done pretty well in summer recruiting. I have friends getting hired by all the big companies, banks and consulting firms for the summer. All signs point to good things for those who work hard for the next couple of years.

My current JD-MBA classmates are doing really impressive things. While its usually a 50%/50% split of those who go into business and law after graduation, more 2nd years are taking the law firm route this summer and are working at law firms. While the breakdown is a bit exaggerated due to the economy, it is usually weighted toward law since not doing a legal internship precludes you from getting a law job after graduation. Of the JD-MBAs working in business this summer, they are working in consulting and banking/finance. With options like these, I stand by my earlier comment and am not worried at all about the “odd” economic times.

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Monday, June 22nd, 2009 Business School No Comments

Post-work summer activities and fun

Fortunately, getting into school is typically a security blanket for keeping your job. Most of my friends have been coasting at work ever since February. I’ve gotten more IMs and facebook messages than ever. Because most of these admits are already on the way out of work, it wouldn’t make much sense to layoff a skilled employee, lose productivity and pay severance to an employee who was going to leave anyways. To me, it seems like a pretty bad investment, not to mention bad PR at the business school where the employee will be attending.

I was one of the lucky ones. For the last two years I had been working for a consulting firm, Watson Wyatt. We have a lot of pretty big clients at Watson Wyatt, but we were a middle market firm and often couldn’t compete with the top tier firms. Unfortunately, when the economy sent south last fall, many of our clients started reducing budgets, and so did my company. For my company headcount was really important so it was one of the first ways they thought to cut costs. After I had gotten into school in December, I was lucky enough to get on the radar for layoff and severance pretty immediately. I was not originally so keen on the idea, thinking that I wanted to work through the end of the summer to save up for school. But a firm partner and all of my friends convinced me that staying stopping work was the best case scenario. After a few weeks of behind-the-scenes chaos, I ultimately spent my last day in the office in early March.

Turned out, stopping work in March was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Since March, I spent quite a bit of time with family and friends and traveling around the US. I’ve been to NYC twice, Chicago three times, Arizona, California, and Denver. I also have a coule of really fun trips planned for July. This summer, I’m also doing a pre-JD/MBA summer clerkship at the Attorney General’s Office. Such internships are generally reserved first and second year law students, but I sent out my resume and did a little networking.

My internship is great because I get really cool exposure at the top government agency, I’ve met a lot of really cool people there, and my hours are really flexible. I spent my first couple weeks in the Community Services division. In this division, we help serve the community by responding to consumer complaints about local business and similar issues. In reality, it felt a lot like a customer service job. After networking a bit in the office, I eventually made my way to the executive office, where we handle all issues directly for the Attorney General, including setting up and participating in meetings, scheduling his interviews and call, and doing all things press related. It’s been a lot of fun, and lots of important people come through. Just last week we had a meeting with Obama’s new Border Czar and his team from the Department of Homeland Security. It was a really busy day but the meeting went really well. It will definitely be a great job to chat aboutduring law school recruiting this fall.

Despite liking the AG’s office, I’m already trying to plan my exit so I can take full advantage of the rest of the summer, I’m already planning 3 or 4 trips up for July, and I’ll be making a short trip to NYC at the end of June. My trip in June is for Bain’s Pre-MBA Diversity Session on June 30th. I am excited about it, becuase I am pretty serious about the management consulting field, and it will be a good way to see a lot of friends hopefully. I’ll be sure to write about the session next week.

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Sunday, June 21st, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

Why Kellogg

Hey everyone, hope you’re doing well.  I recently got an email from someone interested in applying to the JD-MBA program. She sent a couple of questions, including “Why Northwestern (Kellogg?) That’s always a pretty tough question, but I’ll  take a stab at answering the question below.

——–

MY RESPONSE TO READER’S QUESTION

So when I tell people I’m headed to Northwestern’s JD-MBA program, I usually get three different responses: (i) Congratulations! (ii) Why Kellogg/Northwestern? and (iii) Why a JD and an MBA?

What I’ve learned about going through this process and answering these questions is that choosing a business school is no easy feat. The are a number of top programs out there that will help you accomplish your career goals. I had the good fortune of being part of Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) as an applicant. MLT focuses on the business school application process and specifically helped me determine my priorities for choosing a school. As part of the program, I spent a lot of time visiting campuses, interacting with current students, reflecting on my personal goals, writing strong essays, and going to admitted student weekends. I strongly suggest that any graduate school applicant go through the same due diligence.

I ultimately chose to attend Kellogg’s JD-MBA program. Accepting a place at Kellogg was not a hard decision given it’s top ranking and premier resources. However, turning down other top schools was a bit more difficult. Upon reflection, there are a couple of specific reasons that helped me realize that Kellogg was the best fit for me.

Teamwork. Having worked on a variety of project teams as a consultant, I’ve learned the distinct advantage of having a high-performing team. Kellogg pioneered the concept of teamwork in b-school. From being a student-driven culture, to rotating study groups, to a lopsided amount of team-based coursework, Kellogg and Northwestern law will best allow me to hone my teamwork skills.

Classmates: Students at Northwestern are slightly older and amongst the most collegial, fun loving students at any school. This is true at both Kellogg and Northwestern Law, and I look forward to a really fun three years. I also think this adds a more mature and experienced dynamic to the classroom. Will be pretty interesting learning from interesting and experienced classmates.

General Management. Kellogg also has a world-class general management curriculum, and tends to do a lot of things really well. With a background that’s pretty generalist in nature, including consulting, I do think that getting a general management background is a good idea, and for me it is the best way to go.

Marketing Orientation. Unlike many Kellogg students, I don’t specifically plan to go into marketing after graduation. But I do believe that marketing/ sales is one of the most important functions in business. As such, Kellogg’s strong marketing curriculum–from the world-renowned marketing curriculum to its annual marketing competition–will be a good fit for me.

Leadership Development. I believe that running a company is as much about good leadership as it is about analysis and processes. I’ve had the fortunate experience of having worked with one or two really good leaders in addition to a lot of really bad ones, and personally think that it’s important to show strong leadership in business. Kellogg offers things like a 360 leadership assessment, a culture based on feedback, a great MORS major (and leadership minor), and countless ways to lead/organize as a part of the student body.

Negotiation Coursework. I am really interested academically in negotiations. Law school is generally a great way to get this exposure, and Northwestern Law is one of the best with the topic. Northwestern Law is also known for its practical coursework and its clinics, including a negotiations clinic. Kellogg also has a great negotiations curriculum. They have some of the best professors in the field who have written some of the best books in the field. At Kellogg, you can even get a minor in negotiations.

Consulting. I have a background in consulting and am thinking about the management consulting field post-graduation. Kellogg is one of the best at sending students into the field. They even have the “Analytical Consulting” major specifically designed to enter the field.

JD-MBA Program. I will talk more about the specifics of the dual program going forward, but attaining both the JD and the MBA was probably the biggest factor in my school decision, as my long-term professional interests have ties to both law and business, e.g. startups, politics and social change. In my opinion, Northwestern far and away has the best and most integrated JD-MBA program and it certainly has the oldest JD-MBA “program”.

At Northwestern, I know I can gain the skills and experiences to achieve my professional goals. I look forward to starting at Northwestern this fall.

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Wednesday, June 17th, 2009 Business School No Comments

Starting a blog

This fall I will be starting at Northwestern in the JD-MBA program. I’m really excited about starting the program, so I’ve decided to write a blog about my academic and professional experiences, about the fun I have with my classmates, and about my thoughts and reflections along the way. I envision the blog serving four purposes but also plan to let it evolve over time:

1. It will be a good way to keep my friends and family updated on how things are going while I am busy at school. Going to both law school and business school is definitely going to be tough.

2. It will be a good way to journal what’s going to be an incredible three year journey in Chicago, with a great group of classmates from both schools.

3. It will be a good way to discuss the JD-MBA program at Northwestern. Although it’s undoubtedly one of the world’s top academic programs, a lot of graduate school applicants don’t know about the integrated program, and thus never have the chance to to apply. Hopefully this blog will help market the program and answer questions anyone has about it. Please email me with questions.

4. It will be a good way to connect with business/law school applicants and other professionals who seek career advice or are headed down a similar career path.

My next few posts will be a bit more about me and the JD-MBA program. Feel free to post comments or email as you read along the way.

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Monday, June 15th, 2009 Uncategorized No 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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