Studying law & finance16/03/2013
This is probably the most frequently asked question I receive regarding my studies. However, so far I have not been able to provide a straight forward answer. That is mainly because there is no simple right or wrong answer. Instead of just thinking about the combination generally, the question should rather be targeted individually to a person studying these subjects. What are his or her underlying meanings, goals, and ambitions?
To start with, both degrees are widely recognized to require a lot of work. However, the working methods are completely different. Law studies require endless amount of hours spent in the library reading books, usually by oneself. In contrast, finance studies are typically spent in front of a computer screen enjoying the wonders MS Excel has to offer. In addition, finance studies are much more social, meaning that you have a lot of group assignments and lectures to attend, whereas law studies, at least in theory, can be conducted without a single group work or mandatory lecture.
Besides the studying methods, there is also another significant factor distinguishing the two degrees: the Finnish law degree is still an official degree. With an official degree I mean that all Finnish lawyers study almost all the same courses, with just minor variation. This means that both a corporate lawyer as well as a judge have received similar educational backgrounds. Therefore, at least in the beginning, Finnish lawyers are generalists, whereas finance graduates are educated to be specialists. Moreover, finance is a global subject whereas law is bound to the country where it is studied and thereafter practiced.
Then, to the core questions: what are the benefits/downsides of taking both degrees and are there any synergies between them? In my opinion the degrees support each other, at least to some extent. A corporate lawyer without the understanding of financials is useless. The same implies to e.g. a corporate manager with a business school background, not perceiving the frameworks where he or she is operating or what kind of legal liabilities and consequences arise from his or her actions. Sure, one can always consult a colleague but understanding both sides makes your life easier. What about the downsides then? Without any doubts the biggest drawback is the loss of time. Are you willing to sacrifice so much of your time for school? That is the question that a student going for a double degree has to ask themselves.
In conclusion, I believe that having a double degree is beneficial, at least for me. The combination widens your way of thinking and provides you more tools for solving various kinds of problems. One supports another. Moreover, having both degrees enables you to act more independently and provides more options. However, it is a question of choice and usage of the limited amount of time. Do you need to acquire the knowledge yourself or is it enough that someone else has it? Nevertheless, one must always decide whether he or she is a lawyer with a financial background or the other way around. Therefore, taking into account the amount of time one is willing to sacrifice for school, a balanced combination of the two might be the best choice.