Dual degrees open far-reaching possibilities for Tulane Law alumni: Part three

Though a JD degree can lead to an array of practice areas – from securities to sports law, environmental to energy law – students focused on specialized fields can use Tulane’s dual-degree programs to open more doors in traditional practice and beyond. In four years, students can earn a JD combined with a graduate degree in another field, yielding deeper expertise and broader career opportunities.

In Lagniappe’s final dual-degrees feature, meet identical-twin brothers who paired their JDs with MBAs and now are tax attorneys for leading national corporations, one in-house and the other as outside counsel.

Law + Master of Business Administration: Brian Page

As an undergraduate student, Brian Page (L/MBA ’09) aimed toward a career in politics. But that ambition waned after he completed internships in the field and earned a political science degree, so he took an alternate path. He refocused on law and business and enrolled in Tulane’s combined program.

His path veered again when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast just days into his first year of graduate studies. Brian’s apartment flooded, ruining everything he owned. When Tulane’s classes reconvened in January after a semester’s hiatus, he faced a less-than-ideal situation for studying: living in temporary housing, having to replace all his possessions and attending a condensed lineup of classes.

Despite the challenges, Brian tackled the JD/MBA program’s demands, focusing on tax and finance classes, working on the Tulane Journal of International and Comparative Law and finishing in fewer than four years. (His twin brother, Rich, joined him in Tulane’s dual JD/MBA track in 2006.)

Tulane Law | Dual Degrees | Rich Page & Brian Page

Rich and Brian Page earned joint Tulane JD and MBA degrees within one year of each other and are both practicing as business and tax attorneys. All photos courtesy of Rich and Brian Page.

Brian’s hard work paid off. He landed an internship with ExxonMobil during school that turned into a coveted career opportunity after graduation: working in-house for a major energy corporation. Brian, who went on to earn an LLM in tax from New York University School of Law, worked at ExxonMobil’s locations in Fairfax, Virginia and Houston before taking on his current role as a tax attorney at the company’s worldwide headquarters outside Dallas.

Lagniappe: Why did you pursue dual degrees?

Brian: My main motivation was curiosity. I was interested in both fields, and I wanted to learn about both business and law, so the program seemed like the perfect fit for me. I majored in political science in college and had internships focused on politics, but I discovered that I wasn’t as interested in that area as I originally thought I was. In the end, I felt drawn more to law and business.

Lagniappe: What was your experience in the two programs?

Brian: I focused closely on finance at the business school and thought it was a great program. . . . I took many tax law classes at Tulane Law and also some real estate law classes. . . . Overall, I found that the two programs really reinforced each other, and I was able to pick up a strong understanding of both fields.

Lagniappe: How did you balance the two programs?

Brian: It was very busy! You have to really learn to manage your time and be prepared to not have a lot of spare time for certain stretches, especially because many of the JD/MBA students end up taking two or three more credits per semester than students in just one program.

I also should mention that I did the whole program in three-and-a-half years. I got to Tulane in August 2005, right before Hurricane Katrina, went back in January 2006 and graduated in May 2009. In the hurricane, I lost everything – all my possessions. My apartment was destroyed in the storm, was later looted and had mold growing over everything. I had to live on a cruise ship for my first month back at law school. And after all of that, just two-and-a-half years later, I was interning with ExxonMobil, the largest publicly-traded company in the world. It shows you that you really have to count your blessings and not count yourself out sometimes. You have to keep trying even when things are difficult, because something really good could be right around the corner.

Lagniappe: What are some of the benefits you’ve gained from your dual degrees?

Tulane Law | Dual degrees | Brian Page

Brian Page (L/MBA ’09) accepted the 2012 Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono President’s Award on behalf of ExxonMobil. The award recognized the company for its pro bono service to low-income Houston residents.

Brian: One thing I definitely find is that my background has helped me be quicker at analyzing complex material. I’m often working closely on business projects with financial spreadsheets or calculations . . . all of which can be more complicated than you’d initially imagine. I think I grasp those things more quickly than some of my peers who just went to law school and didn’t study finance.

Also, a lot of law school is based solely on your exams at the end of each semester, but business school focuses more on teamwork and presentation skills. As an in-house attorney, I’ve drawn on those skills considerably when giving presentations and participating in meetings. . . . The skills you’re forced to learn coincide very well with what it’s like to work in a big corporation.

I think it also helps in terms of being relatable to people or connecting with folks. As an attorney, so many of your clients have gone to business school, whether it’s in an undergraduate or MBA program. With the group I’m in now, I’m working very closely with 20 MBA graduates. So the fact that I also did that program means I can relate better to them and know what they know. It’s really valuable from a connections standpoint.

Lagniappe: What advice would you give students considering dual degrees?

Brian: I think the sooner, the better to focus on one area for employment if you’re in a dual-degree program. If you target one thing, you can become really focused on that area of law. I think that allows you to get internships, learn about the industry to know what you’re getting into and be more well-informed about the job opportunities available. It’s also a good signaling mechanism to employers, showing what your primary interest is in. For the most part, while it can be tempting to switch around and explore different areas, I think it’s better if you can choose earlier on. . . .

More generally, I think the program is really valuable. It’s an extra year of school, so you’re not working or earning a salary as soon as you could be, and the opportunity cost seems expensive. But you have 30+ years to work, and the skill sets you build and benefits you gain from being better-rounded will easily make up for the initial expense, so I think it’s certainly worth pursuing.

Law + Master of Business Administration: Rich Page

Rich Page (BA ’04, L/MBA ’10) says he has “an insatiable appetite for learning.” His five degrees back that up: BA in political science from Tulane University; MPP from the University of Chicago; JD/MBA from Tulane; and LLM in taxation from Georgetown University Law Center.

The New Jersey native says he actually considered going for a PhD after earning his master of public policy. But he instead opted for the JD/MBA combination after weighing the broader practical and professional benefits.

And when selecting law and business schools, Rich quickly decided on Tulane — where he’d completed undergraduate studies and where his brother, Brian, also was studying in the JD/MBA track. After enrolling, Rich balanced both schools’ course loads while serving on the Tulane Law Review.

Tulane Law | Dual degrees | Rich Page

Rich Page (BA ’04, L/MBA ’10) holds five degrees — three from Tulane — counsels clients on the tax impact of business transactions and investments at Akin Gump’s New York office.

Now practicing tax law in the New York office of law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld, Rich says his joint legal and business background help him serve his clients’ diverse and complex needs. Before joining Akin Gump, he worked with Deloitte and Ernst & Young, two of the world’s prestigious “Big Four” professional services firms.

Lagniappe: Why did you decide to pursue dual degrees?

Rich: I knew I wanted to go into professional services, and I didn’t see law and business as entirely separate. I figured if I ended up focusing most of my career working on the business side, I’d want to have a firm understanding of the law, and, alternatively, if I ended up working full-time as an attorney, I would want to have a deep understanding of the business world, how people there think and what formal training they have received. . . .

I should also add that I have an insatiable appetite for learning. I had very seriously considered going for a PhD, and the JD/MBA was the alternative for me. One thing I considered when deciding, was that, from a practical standpoint, the JD/MBA would open many more doors career-wise. I also saw it as a much more powerful learning opportunity than a PhD. The information you learn in the JD/MBA is generally much more applicable to everyday life.

Lagniappe: What drew you to Tulane’s program?

Rich: I was tired of the cold winters in Chicago [where I earned my master of public policy], but I also really enjoyed my time at Tulane. I missed New Orleans, and I knew that Tulane has highly reputable business and law programs, which not every school has. Additionally, I had the unique situation that my identical twin brother was pursuing combined Tulane JD and MBA degrees at the same time, and he thought it would be fun if I joined him.

Lagniappe: What was your experience in the dual-degree program?

Tulane Law | Dual degrees | Rich Page & Brian Page

The Page brothers spent three years together at Tulane studying law and business — and enjoying New Orleans.

Rich: I thought it was a very good combination, because business and law are very closely related. Oftentimes, I had business classmates asking me legal questions when something about contracts came up in our business courses, and I also had law school classmates asking me business questions about things like finance and investments.

Also, both programs focus on writing and communicating clearly, which I thought was great. Even as a law student, you can benefit from taking courses at the business school about public speaking and business communications.

Lagniappe: How do you think your combined degrees have helped in your career?

Rich: The degrees have definitely helped. I’ve actually had clients and prospective clients who have been directly interested in engaging someone who has a joint legal and business background. One of the largest engagements I worked on at Deloitte was with management consultants on-site at a Fortune 100 company, where the client specifically requested that someone with a law degree join Deloitte’s team there. So I was specifically sought out to work as a business consultant within the general counsel’s office of a major company, which I did for about six months.

I also have a prospective client who is the CEO of a family business that has about $30 million in annual revenue, and he has said he wants me to be his point person directing all of his professional services. He’s not seeking someone who’s just an attorney or a business advisor. He really likes my comprehensive background, because he’s seeking both legal and business advice. He wants someone to look at the entire scope of his international business operations, give him advice from A to Z and help him identify other professional service providers he might need.

Lagniappe: Do you have any advice for students considering dual degrees?

Rich: For the JD/MBA or any other dual-degree program, I wouldn’t focus exclusively on short-term career benefits. The degrees very well may help you in terms of short-term job placement, but I would also think of it as an educational pursuit and a long-term investment in yourself, your personal knowledge and your career.

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