An MBA from LBSIM is worthwhile

A tight-knit community: the MBA course as a network forge

An article from the azur career magazine 2/2015

While the LL.M. title is emblazoned on many business cards, the MBA is not well established among lawyers. Too complex and too expensive, argue critics. The effort can definitely pay off - especially because of the intensive network contacts. By Eva Flick (from azur 2/2015)

In the hilly landscape of Vallendar, a few kilometers down the Rhine from Koblenz, it's not just the fox and the rabbit who say good night. Most weekenders look for peace and quiet away from the city noise while hiking. Tobias Haar also travels regularly from Karlsruhe to the idyllic Middle Rhine region. Every two months he lives for a few days at the end of the small town, in a priest's guest house in the middle of a park-like garden.

Part-time in Vallendar: Tobias Haar, General Counsel at Gameforge, is doing an MBA at WHU.

A student nurse hands him his room key. The heavenly rest comes in handy for him. He neither wants to become a priest nor does he want to hike. His goal: the MBA degree from WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management. It is just under a kilometer from the seminary guest house to the school.

The 43-year-old General Counsel of the game manufacturer Gameforge and partner of the law firm Vogel & Partner has not yet had enough when it comes to training. After studying law in Heidelberg and completing an LL.M. degree in legal informatics in Hanover and Stockholm, he went one better with the Executive MBA in Vallendar. The course takes place in cooperation with the prestigious Kellogg School of Management in the USA. Within two years, he completed a total of twelve modules in Germany, Hong Kong, Israel and the USA. Learning takes place on extended weekends or in block courses. In the summer of 2015, Haar celebrated halftime.

Niche existence

Like Tobias Haar, lawyers decide every year to supplement their training with an MBA. There are many ways to graduate: the management course can be completed as a part-time job, just like at WHU. Others leave their clients to their colleagues for a while and go to school full-time for a year. At Dr. Andreas Hoger, in turn, the MBA training is an integral part of his training. The 36-year-old associate works under the Hengeler Mueller flag. Five years ago, the law firm started a cooperation with the University of St. Gallen, which includes a five-year advanced training course for its associates - something that no other German law firm offers.

All associates attend these management courses, with which they have acquired 30 points and a 'Diploma' after five years. The points, which normally make up half of the required number of points for an MBA degree in St. Gallen, can be credited here as well as at other MBA schools. The degree is not a complete MBA - competitors occasionally call it a slightly contemptuous `` mini MBA '' - but it is a significant step in this direction. Hoger already has an LL.M. degree in his pocket, acquired at one of the most famous universities of all, Harvard.

First a strenuous study and traineeship, a doctorate and possibly an LL.M. degree - what added value can the MBA offer? Tobias Haar's answer comes quickly: “In principle, this is a small degree in business administration,” he says. Questions such as 'How do I read annual financial statements' or 'How do I calculate interest rates' can be in the foreground? A number of case studies from real business practice are dealt with.

The participants take a detailed look at the line-up of a company and ultimately decide, for example, which product lines are unprofitable and should therefore be better discontinued. In addition, it is also about improving leadership skills, as it is called so internationally in the MBA environment, i.e. about characteristics that leaders should bring with them.

When Tobias Haar joined Gameforge in 2008, he was primarily busy building up the legal department. Later on, his area of ​​responsibility expanded and he is now involved in many more subject areas, for example aspects of purchasing or questions from the finance and human resources department. Solutions to problems that are relevant here are usually not taught in law studies, but they are in an MBA course. And that is what it is primarily about: the ability to find the right answers to questions even in non-legal areas of work.

Full-time at Fontainebleau

Dr. Jan-Claudio Muñoz made the decision to study an MBA easy. The 32-year-old associate at Willkie Farr & Gallagher recalls: “After my exams and doctorate, my need for legal topics was simply exhausted. That's why an LL.M. degree was ruled out for me. ”But he really wanted to go abroad again. “I imagined that after completing the MBA I would be on a par with an investment banking associate,” he says. He decided to study full-time at INSEAD in Fontainebleau, France. He graduated in the summer of 2013.

His expectation of the MBA course was not fulfilled - simply because a lot of the subject matter learned in the daily life of the lawyer falls behind again. And yet he doesn't regret his decision for a second: “I can understand balance sheets and company valuations,” he says. These are important skills for an M&A attorney. Excel spreadsheets are usually not one of the favorite tools of lawyers, but they are part of the common repertoire of MBA graduates.

Five years in St. Gallen: like all Hengeler Associates, Dr. Andreas Hoger seminars in Switzerland.

Food for thought

On the other hand, the Hengeler St. Gallen seminars, which are tailor-made for lawyers' everyday work, contain more legal components. For example, there are courses specifically on client types with questions such as 'What are the special needs of bank clients or private equity firms?'. The timetable also includes courses where the target group is not obvious at first glance.

The seminar on negotiation, for example, was led by a lecturer who earned his bread by negotiating with pirates. It's about ransom demands and the lives of abductees. Exciting. But how should that be transferable to an M&A negotiation? "You also need patience in M&A negotiations," says Andreas Hoger, explaining the parallels. “You always have to keep an eye on the goals. During such an M&A negotiation, I have often thought of these strategies. "

The St. Gallen seminars are designed entirely for the further training of Hengeler lawyers - the immediate benefit in later day-to-day professional life is guaranteed. A pleasant side effect: the close networking of the years. Because in each course, the respective age groups from all locations come together. Andreas Hoger studied this way with 30 colleagues. That welds together.

But the contacts of the Hengeler Associates cannot keep up with the network that you buy at a conventional MBA school. Because the well-known MBA schools demand the sometimes immense costs because every student becomes a member of a huge alumni network upon graduation. INSEAD alone has around 50,000 members from more than 170 countries. At the Kellogg MBA school, which also includes the graduates from Vallendar, there are as many as 59,000.

Worldwide contacts

An added value that is difficult to quantify with money. “The network is the crucial point for the benefit of an MBA degree,” says Jan-Claudio Muñoz. He regularly meets former INSEAD students on the client side. A starting point is always found immediately. A specific problem in a country where you actually have no contacts?

No problem. “I know an INSEAD alumni practically everywhere who is guaranteed to be able to help me at short notice,” he explains. “The reverse is also true.” Answers to questions that he has already asked in this way often end up in his inbox a few hours later. "And that from people I met briefly years ago."

Full-time at Fontainebleau: Willkie Farr Attorney Dr. Jan-Claudio Muñoz studied at the INSEAD Business School.

The network garnished with top-class lecturers and small, internationally staffed classes, the schools are rewarded princely. Ten months at INSEAD cost Jan-Claudio Muñoz 50,000 euros at the time. Tobias Haar's course in Vallendar costs 75,000 euros. And that's just the pure tuition fees. Travel and accommodation costs are added to the part-time MBA, and full living expenses are added to the full-time course. One reason why Muñoz quickly said goodbye to his MBA school of choice.

For example, one of his original favorites was the Columbia School in New York. With his very good result in the selection tests that all applicants for an MBA degree have to pass, he would have had a good chance there. However, the course in New York lasts two years, and the school itself calculates the cost of tuition and living at a whopping $ 100,000 a year - not to mention the opportunity costs of losing your salary during that time.

Share costs with employers

The high costs are also one reason why some potential MBA students can be put off. More and more companies and law firms are willing to pay some or all of the fees. Muñoz ‘Willkie Farr, for example, pays half of the tuition fees. At the time, Muñoz ran open doors with the German managing partner Mario Schmidt with his MBA wish. "I always encourage young associates to do an MBA," reports Schmidt and supported Muñoz by arranging secondments at the Rothschild investment bank and the private equity house 3i.

These stations - Muñoz speculates today - were ultimately an important plus point for one of the coveted places at INSEAD. Because schools always attach great importance to very mixed classes. The McKinsey consultant, who speaks five languages ​​and runs marathons, sits next to a former fighter pilot in the classroom, the Hong Kong Chinese from an industrial company next to the Sinhalese from the investment bank. "As a German lawyer who has just completed his legal clerkship, you are not a particularly exciting applicant for an MBA school," says Muñoz. Sounding names like Rothschild and 3i would have opened the doors for him.

Intense time

But regardless of whether you opt for a full or part-time MBA, all programs have one thing in common: They are exhausting. The typical seminar day in Vallendar, for example, starts at 8:30 a.m. The study day is completely timed. Interactive lessons follow in quick succession, then dinner, then group work and preparation for the next day. The end is often only in sight at 11 p.m. At this time of the day, Vallendar's sidewalks have long been up

There is still an opportunity for an after-work beer. Because the homely Vallendar has adjusted to the night owls from WHU. The Korova bar is opposite the school. Fixed opening times: none. Whoever rings the doorbell is let in and given a nightcap - or two. Finally, it can also be networked at the counter.