By John MassonJan. 16, 2013
Whether they were just dipping a curious toe into the swift current of modern-day business or they had more serious plans to pursue business or business law as a career, a standing-room crowd of 120 law students returned from break two days early this week to immerse themselves in the first Michigan Law mini-MBA course.
"We had those two groups in that classroom for two days, and that's mission accomplished for us," said Michigan Law Prof. Erik Gordon, director of the school's Zell Entrepreneurship and Law (ZEAL) Program, which organized the mini-course. "We want to add one more advantage to getting a Michigan Law education."
The program kicked off Monday with a strategic overview from 1983 Michigan Law graduate Bill Goodspeed, who flew in from Maine to give his talk, then progressed through 13 hours of instruction Monday and Tuesday from senior U-M Ross School of Business professors on some of the basics of accounting, finance, business economics, and marketing.
Formally entitled "Business Basics for Lawyers," the single-credit session was the first offering of a course that's likely to be presented more than once a year. More law students expressed an interest than could be accommodated this time around, Prof. Gordon said.
"It's part of ZEAL's role in offering Michigan Law students of all ilks broader exposure to the business side of the world," Prof. Gordon said. "When they pick up a newspaper and read a story about 'fully-diluted earnings per share,' they would like to know what that means."
One reason to offer the mini-course before the formal start of the semester, Prof. Gordon added, was to make sure students pursuing full-length, business-oriented courses at the Law School this term have the vocabulary and intellectual underpinnings to help them excel.
Another reason is the growing importance, for everyone, of having some basic understanding of how business works, he said.
"An understanding of business principles is important not just to business people or business lawyers, it's important to university presidents, mayors of cities, nonprofit leaders, and everybody else who wants to have an impact," Prof. Gordon said. "All of those people have some business aspect to their professional lives, and the business aspect is more important now than it was 20 years ago."
The bottom line, Prof. Gordon said, is giving Michigan Law students the tools they'll need to be even more successful.
"There are business aspects to any activity that requires human or financial resources," he said. "So whatever you're doing to make a difference in life, you will do better if you understand something about business."
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