U of M establishes joint business, law degree

By Maggie Macintosh
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Winnipeg Free Press

Manitoba’s largest university will welcome its inaugural cohort of candidates working simultaneously towards law and business degrees in 2024-25.

On Wednesday, the University of Manitoba announced plans to rollout a joint-degree program combining its juris doctor and master of business administration.

Typically, it would take five years to earn a JD and MBA locally. Students will now be able to earn both within a four-year stretch.

Its a first-of-its-kind partnership — the merging of an undergraduate and graduate program — in the province.

“The university’s been involved in driving the legal profession in this province for almost 110 years now and in many cases, those lawyers are the people drafting the deals and driving big corporate and commercial deals in the province for business people,” said Richard Jochelson, dean of Robson Hall.

Jochelson said legal professionals who graduate from U of M’s newest concurrent program will bring an extra set of competencies to those discussions, in turn benefiting all Manitobans.

The law dean estimates eight candidates will be accepted into the new stream on an annual basis. It will officially launch next fall.

There have long been discussions about a JD/MBA program, but Jochelson said the action was not prioritized because it was daunting and deemed unnecessary since the programs were successful on their own.

The newly-announced partnership is the byproduct of a recent shake-up in leadership within the faculty of law and university at-large, he said.

(U of M president Michael Benarroch, who took office in July 2020, was a former dean of the Asper School of Business and involved in initial conversations about the project.)

“There’s advantages to the students — one is it’s four years instead of five for both degrees. The other advantage is you’re networking across both sets of communities, which includes industry,” Jochelson said, noting it is also more affordable than tackling the two degrees separately.

It is also beneficial for U of M because students interested in both disciplines will no longer have to leave the province to study them at the same time, he added.

Queen’s University (Kingston, Ont.) offers a BCom/JD and the University of British Columbia has a JD/MBA stream, among other existing programs.

Jochelson noted senior partners at local firms have been inquiring about U of M creating a similar program since he started working at the university in 2016.

Being familiar with “the language of commerce” is an invaluable skill that can equip corporate lawyers with the know-how to facilitate transnational deals, the dean added.

In a news release, Benarroch said he was excited about the prospect of connecting more faculties and programs so the university “can further nurture and promote cross-disciplinary thinking.”