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Penn Law’s Master in Law program attracts Wharton MBA students to pursue combined degree

September 14, 2020

Launched in 2014, the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School’s Master in Law (ML) program offers graduate students and accomplished professionals the opportunity to immerse themselves in learning the law and legal processes that impact their scholarship and shape their fields. Pursuing an ML degree in conjunction with an MBA from the Wharton School is an increasingly popular choice for business students who suspect that law will play a prominent role in their future endeavors but know they do not want to become lawyers themselves.

“I pursued both the ML and MBA degrees because, in my opinion, a strong knowledge of the law helps one be an informed citizen capable of having an impact not only in business, but in society as a whole,” said William Matson ML’19 WG’19, who now serves as Chief Financial Officer and Head of Corporate Development at a company he started during his last semester at Wharton.

Matson’s company buys and merges residential service companies and has acquired 15 in the past year. Matson said he is most excited “about building family-owned businesses that are values-led and that put people first.”

Matthew Bitter ML’20 WG’20, who recently joined the real estate group of investment firm Blackstone, said he felt the ML would prepare him to handle loan negotiations, lease agreements, and transaction documents.

“The ML program gave me the confidence to address the heavy legal component to real estate,” he said.

Raul Martinez ML’19 WG’19 said that he chose to pursue both degrees because he was “always interested in business and finance and the way laws and regulations shaped those fields.” Martinez now advises Fortune 500 companies on mergers and acquisitions as a Senior Strategy Consultant at the consulting firm Accenture. He is also in the process of launching his own sports analytics company. Martinez said his ML coursework gave him “a foundational understanding of how the legal process works, how laws are shaped, how to research federal and state laws, and how to better understand contracts and legal language.”

Before business school, Akshay Jashnani ML’17 WG’15 spent six years working at the financial services company Société Général.

“I was unsure whether I wanted to commit to law school or become a lawyer,” he said. “In this context, the ML degree was a no-brainer. It gave me the opportunity to pursue targeted upper-level law courses in business law, while complementing my Wharton education and prior experience in finance with practical legal knowledge to tackle subject areas that interested me the most — those at the intersection of law and finance.”

Today, Jashnani is working with the energy banking team at Citibank in London.

“A big part of my job involves negotiating loan agreements,” he said. “These negotiations are often about finding a balance between the bank’s position from a risk perspective while being commercial enough to win new mandates. I often work with lawyers and having a legal background — thanks to my ML experience — helps me understand and appreciate the nuances of certain negotiating positions from a legal perspective. Reviewing landmark cases in corporate finance law during the ML program and discussing those cases with Penn Law professors has given me a unique perspective.”

Other alumni of Penn’s combined MBA and ML programs include Arif Damji ML’19 WG’19, now an investor at Conductive Ventures in San Francisco; Ashwini Gokhale ML’16 WG’16, a senior consultant at Deloitte in Dallas; and Angela Zhu ML’19 WG’19, a vice president at Technology Crossover Ventures in Silicon Valley. Current students Flannery Zhou ML’21 WG’21 and Malcolm Leverett ML’22 WG’22 are continuing the trend.

“In some form, I think that all of my ML classes will shape my career trajectory as I move forward,” said Martinez. “The program opened my eyes to the many complex and fascinating ways in which business and the law intersect.”

Read more about the Law School’s unique ML program.