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How to think like a businessperson

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In law school, students are taught to think like lawyers — to be analytical, restrained, careful and methodical in reasoning.

In short, they learn to be the anti-Trump.

No matter how you feel about Donald Trump, the president, Donald Trump, the person, does not think like a lawyer. He thinks like a businessman, which, of course, he is.

Landing an LL.M. helps one think like a businessperson. It helps one navigate what can be a strange, foreign world to many attorneys.

“The key is for a lawyer to learn the language of business, to be comfortable in business discussions and to convey a reality of mastery of the legal concepts relevant to business,” said Tom Campbell, professor of law and the former dean at Chapman University Fowler School of Law in Orange, Calif. “At one year less than an MBA, an LL.M. is a very cost effective way to obtain these skills.”

One significant trend is the changing role of lawyers in business, particularly when acting as corporate counselors.

“The role of the lawyer as a partner in facilitating a business transaction has been growing – as opposed to the lawyer as the specialist to whom the company turns once a problem has been encountered,” Campbell said. “Business leaders are looking for business lawyers who convey a sense of can-do, not a sense of ‘Here’s why you can’t.’ Still, when it is appropriate to raise a red flag, it is the attorney’s responsibility to do so.”

Landing a corporate counsel job is not easy, given the competition for those spots.

“There are many more lawyers trying to leave firm practice than there are corporate legal departments looking to hire them,” Campbell said. “The LL.M. distinguishes the applicant from the vast number of others seeking this career path.”

Ronald Steiner, who directs Chapman University’s LL.M. program, said the advanced degree is not necessarily vital for a student who went through a good J.D. program, took all the right courses, got the right skills and experience, and made contacts and connections. However, if one did not do so, the LL.M. could be an option.

“LL.M. programs can provide more focused and innovative learning opportunities than many J.D. programs,” he said. “Working in combination with business school students and faculty provides a chance to gain knowledge and skills in a setting more like what they will encounter in the real world.” 

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