What are the MLB Program’s academic aspirations with regards to the unique interaction between law and business?
Law is a tool to organise our lives, our businesses, our world. We all have to eat and live somewhere. In order to do that we might buy food and rent a flat. To be able to pay for the goods and services we consume we must earn money, which for most of us means going to work. All the aspects I have mentioned here – buying, renting, working – are underpinned by contracts, which are created and enforced by law. If we are careless and cause somebody else damage we owe them compensation, which again is provided for by law, this time the law of tort or delict.
Businesses are a key players in the arrangement of our world: they employ people, they sell goods, they manage apartment blocks, they drive innovation and discovery. Successful businesses depend not only on the sound ideas behind them but also on good management, which in turn encompasses a wide range of aspects: from very concrete tools, such as accounting, to softer skills, such as communication and leadership.
The languages of business and law are often very different and lawyers and business people can misunderstand each other. An example: business people speak of ‘mode of entry’ and lawyers of ‘types of companies’ when they turn to the question what are the best ways of organising an enterprise. By enabling business people and lawyers to understand each other and to appreciate the key concerns of each discipline, we educate the business leaders of tomorrow.
What is notable about the MLB Program at Bucerius Law School in particular?
First and foremost, its interdisciplinary and integrated nature. Our classes are carefully co-ordinated to look at key aspects in the life cycle of a company from both a legal and a business perspective. The life-cycle approach is unique in university education as far as I know: our classes follow a business from its inception, through foundation, expansion, internationalization and so on.
All our legal classes are taught against the background of various legal systems, always bearing in mind the importance of common law systems for structuring legal transactions. German and EU law might be used as a vehicle to explain legal concepts, but they are not the sole points of reference.
The Program also benefits from its practical orientation. An integral part of the Program is an internship that students undertake in March/April. For many students the internship is a step stone towards their career after graduation and it provides useful insights for the Masters thesis.
What do applicants need to be admitted to the Program?
The MLB Program welcomes business people as well as lawyers and requires sound academic credentials! A good first degree is essential as our student body is very bright and ambitious. We also require students to have some post qualification work experience. The MLB is a program for young professionals and lives from the experiences that the students bring with them. For applicants with longer work experience, we place greater emphasis on this element when evaluating their application and the academic credentials become slightly less important.
But we also take into account a range of other factors, such as intercultural awareness and abilities as well as extracurricular engagement.
Applicants have to express an interest in the interdisciplinary study of law and business and show an awareness of the features of the MLB Program. A generic application “to study for an LLM at your prestigious institution” will likely be rejected!
And applicants don’t have to be graduates of law or business schools. Every year we have some graduates of other disciplines with a proven interest in our areas of expertise who have successfully completed the program; in recent years we had pharmacists, physicists, and chemistry graduates as well as political scientists.
How does the Program’s international student body influence its teaching goals and environment?
The students of 2021/22 come from 23 countries. The MLB Program is a beacon of cosmopolitan education. We provide educational offerings, but students learn as much from each other as they do from our professors! Our faculty itself is international and benefits from teaching students with a wide variety of backgrounds.
The student body is also key to one of our educational goals, to equip our graduates with the tools to carry out business activities across borders. Very little business these days is solely national, most of it involves cross-border activities. Anybody engaged in such activity therefore needs intercultural awareness and the ability to deal with people from different backgrounds. The MLB Program practices what it preaches, one could say. I like to think that we help in our own little way to create a better and safer tomorrow by teaching people from different cultures and countries to live and work together.
What is the educational significance of the internship?
The MLB is a practice-oriented program. While being academically rigorous, our emphasis lies on the practical application of the knowledge and skills learned. The internship is therefore a central aspect of the Program. After two terms’ teaching, the students can practice their knowledge and skills in a wide range of settings, some with a more legal, others with a more business-oriented focus. The internship for many has led to future employment contacts or has provided inspiration for the Masters thesis or some other venture post graduation. We have a list of organisations that we work closely together with, often via MLB alumni, but many students find an internship without our support, either in Hamburg, or in other German cities such as Berlin or Frankfurt, and sometimes even in other countries.
During the internships students also learn about German work culture, deal with online or other forms of remote learning, and appreciate how to deal with situations involving colleagues from a variety of backgrounds. This experience is then rounded off by another term of teaching at Bucerius and by completion of the Masters thesis.
What job opportunities might open for graduates of the MLB Program?
After the MLB Program, most participants wish to work at the interface of law and business. Both, law and business are very versatile disciplines in their own right. Graduates of those disciplines are recruited for their ability to think in clear and logical structures, to analyse problems with certain analytical tools, to express themselves appropriately for several audiences, and for their subject specific knowledge. MLB graduates combine some knowledge from both disciplines, enriched by an international dimension, and have improved the skills mentioned by adding the complimentary abilities of the other discipline. They are highly sought after by German and international employers.
Due to our life cycle of a company approach, many MLB graduates naturally veer towards startups as first employment after completing the Program – they want to start at the beginning. But they are equally welcome in longer established businesses, banks, law firms, or in some cases the civil service. As in-house lawyers, they can assess issues from both their business and legal perspectives and know when to call in external legal counsel. MLB graduates benefit from our large network of employer contacts which provide exposure to employers of every size and shape.