Friday, March 11, 2011

Category Blurring in Law/Finance

Larry Ribstein showcases an intriguing new turn in law/business education--a proposal for an "executive MBA in law."    Larry quotes the prospectus:
The year-long program, which runs in the evenings and on weekends, will examine the impact of globalization on laws, legal institutions and capital markets. * * * This is a way for people to engage, in a more in-depth way academically, those issues they’re facing at work. * * *
 Maybe so, although when Larry gushes
It’s not just some glorified CLE. It’s theory that matters in the real world, taught by a leading law-and-econ faculty to non-lawyers.
...I have to wonder if he left his crap detector home in his other suit.  Just in general, when I hear the phrase "executive education" I smell polyester: I tend to imagine  guys making $45k a year and dreaming of $60k--that is, "executive" in the sense of "aspirational," aka "in your dreams."  And whenever a professor of anything talks about "theory that matters in the real world," he's talking in an echo-chamber unencumbered  by the  views of students who doubt that theory ever matters except insofar as it might buff a resume.   Still I would have to grant that "theory" in finance may "matter in the real world" more than other kinds of theory, but precisely because it has done more harm (maybe Marxism is a competitor here).  I can't count the number of times a student has growled contemptuously that the Efficient Capital Markets Hypothesis, say, "isn't even true"--to which the appropriate response is: that's precisely why it is so interesting.   I mean--if a "true" theory dominates the world, it's just part of the grand plan; if a false one, then it can cause no end of mischief.

But I'm a fine one to talk: I admit I have been pretending to teach crossover law/finance "theory that matters in the real world" for twenty-odd years now and I can certainly concede that the categories  blur.  I remember one year when I was putting my law school kiddies through  Brealey & Myers; late in the semester, I noticed that my successor in the classroom was a business school guy wielding Brudney & Chirelstein.  But in any event, I regularly get evaluations from students complaining that "I've got a friend in an investment bank and he says he doesn't have to know any of this stuff."  The said truth is that he is --not right exactly, but a lot closer to right than most professors would want to admit.

Meanwhile Joel points us to what may be an even more diverting venture: impeccably biglaw Milbank Tweed is offering its associates "professional development courses on business, accounting, economics, finance and negotiating" in cooperation with "Harvard’s Law and Business faculties"--branded as Milbank@Harvard. Speaking as an unreconstructed nerd, I must say this sounds like a lot of fun--and am I right to suspect that this is precisely the point?   The blurb reads like nothing so much as a recruiting teaser--you  missed Harvard the first time, we spray holy water on you and set you right so when your biglaw career goes into a low-altitude stall you can bail out with a better resume.  Odd, though, that they are admitting they even hire from other than Harvard. 

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