University of Pennsylvania Law School students will soon be headed to business school — The Wharton School, to be specific. Penn this fall will launch a partnership with Wharton aimed at providing law students with key management and business skills. Second-and-third year students will have the option to spend a semester in an executive management course specifically designed for them, taught by Wharton faculty and housed within the business school. "The idea is that the practice of law occurs within large organizations now, and as a lawyer you need to be thinking about how to manage that entity," said law dean Michael Fitts. Many law schools have moved to incorporate business and management skills into existing courses or have introduced new classes, seminars or bootcamps on those topics. Fitts said the Wharton partnership is unique because it places leadership and management skills front and center and is taught by business faculty. He did not know of any other law school with similar arrangements. Penn Law students have long had the option of taking courses at Wharton, but not business courses created just for them. While participation is optional, law school leaders are bracing for high demand. "Our expectation is that this will be extremely popular and that we will have a large enrollment," Fitts said. "We’re going to be able to accommodate the entire class." The semester-long program will be divided into four main components covering finance and accounting; leadership and organization design; strategic decision-making; and competitive advantage. The course will address analysis of financial reports, accounting terminology, team dynamics and building personal brands. Students who complete the course will earn a Wharton certificate in management. The course is designed to prepare students to work in a wide array of contexts, not just those who find themselves at a large firm or company, Fitts said, and lawyers in government and the nonprofit world would also benefit from understanding business dynamics. "By making this course part of the curriculum, we are underscoring the importance of acquiring business knowledge, both to understand and interpret the concerns of business clients and to equip students with a set of transferable skills they can apply in diverse professional settings over the course of their careers," said associate dean for career planning and professionalism Heather Frattone. Administrators believe the Wharton certificate will make Penn students even more attractive to legal employers. Karen Sloan is a reporter for The National Law Journal, a Legal affiliate based in New York.
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