Viroopa Volla is currently a third year in the JD/MBA program at Harvard. Before starting the program, Viroopa worked at McKinsey as a Senior Business Analyst and at Walmart as a Senior Manager. She graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Economics. During the program, Viroopa spent her first summer working for Star Maa and Bigg Boss Telugu 2, a popular reality TV show in India. She spent her second summer as a Restructuring and Special Situations associate at PJT Partners in New York. Viroopa hopes to pursue a career at the intersection of law and business.   

We sat down with Viroopa to learn more about the JD/MBA experience.

Given that JD/MBAs spend more time at Harvard, do they take advantage more of research opportunities and resources?

Absolutely! Since the program is four years, JD/MBA students have the special privilege of time to enhance their learning opportunities. Not only do students learn more about resources at HBS and HLS but also, they have the time to pursue long-term projects that require more effort. Students have co-written cases with HBS professors, published Harvard Law Review student comments, conducted econometric and empirical research in conjunction with Harvard University’s Economics department, and co-authored books with HLS professors as research assistants. Another advantage of being in the JD/MBA program is the ability to create longstanding relationships with professors across Harvard, especially at HLS and HBS. Operating at the intersection of law and business creates a unique mindset, which allows for students to pioneer innovative research. 

What was the HBS interview like?

The HBS interview is 30 minutes and in many interviews there will be two members of the admissions committee – an interviewer and an observer. The interviewer asks the applicant questions about their work experience, their interests, and what they would contribute to the HBS community. For applicants interested in the JD/MBA, interviewers may ask why they want to pursue the joint degree and what experiences led them to this decision. 

What career paths are you and your classmates pursuing?

JD/MBAs pursue a variety of career paths after graduation in both law and business. The program tends to attract a diverse set of people, so it is not uncommon for graduates to pursue non-traditional careers. Post-graduation roles have included but are not limited to working at law firms, management consulting firms, investment banks, private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capital firms, Fortune 500 companies, government agencies, the U.S. court system, start-ups and non-profit organizations. Some have started their own entrepreneurial pursuits.

How would JD/MBAs describe their relationships with HLS classmates and HBS classmates?  

JD/MBAs usually find that being part of two different schools strengthens their overall networks. Both schools place students into a section for their first year. The section is huge component of the overall experience at HLS and HBS because students take their first-year classes with their section peers. Since the first two years of the program allow for joint degree students to have the same experience as their peers solely at HLS or HBS, JD/MBAs often form more relationships. Other significant sources of relationships for them are other JD/MBAs. In fact, the third and fourth years take a seminar together in which students present topics of interest to the seminar. The seminar, led by the wonderful Professor Guhan Subraminan, Faculty Advisor of the JD/MBA program and a fellow JD/MBA, is a great deal of fun and speaks to the strength of joint degree relationships! 

Is the joint degree schedule really challenging?  Can JD/MBAs still do extra things like the law clinics, law review?

Although JD/MBAs straddle the two schools, there is plenty of flexibility that allows them to design and customize their schedules. The first two years of the program are designed so that students obtain the same experience as their fellow peers at each school. JD/MBAs are fully devoted to the academic, extracurricular, and social programming offered at each school, whether they start out as 1Ls at HLS or as RCs at HBS. The third and fourth years are elective years in which students take courses at both schools just like their peers. JD/MBAs have been known to pursue a variety of additional pursuits related to their personal interests. At the law school, JD/MBAs are Harvard Law Review editors, Board of Student Advisors, and Harvard Legal Aid Bureau clinicians. At the business school, many JD/MBAs lead large student organizations, write cases with professors, work on startups and business proposals, manage Independent Projects, and participate in Immersive Field Courses. 

What is the alumni network like?  How do JD/MBAs engage with them?

One of the biggest advantages to being in the program is the current JD/MBA cohort and the broader alumni network. The entire group is very close-knit—for instance, the group maintains a communications group, a frequent newsletter, and social events throughout the year. One of the biggest events is the New York Trek where JD/MBAs visit prominent professionals in both law and business careers followed by multiple social events to connect with current and former JD/MBAs. Given the uniqueness of the program, it is very easy to reach out to other JD/MBAs for both personal and career advice. 

If JD/MBAs are moving from HBS to HLS, or HLS to HBS, what is the biggest adjustment?

The biggest adjustment for most JD/MBAs is the nature of the academic program in terms of both content and courses. Courses at HBS are taught through the case study method, which is primarily discussion and participation based. Students prepare for class by reading a case on a business situation and are asked to analyze what steps the company or the business leader should take given the facts of the case. Courses at HLS are also case discussion based, but they use important legal cases from the U.S. legal system. These cases teach students legal doctrine by showing how to analyze the facts of each case to produce a certain outcome by highlighting important tenants of judicial opinions. A second big adjustment is understanding the diversity of resources that are available to students at each school. Both schools provide students with multiple opportunities to learn about law and business, but the focus on what these opportunities showcase is different. In fact, the minimal overlap between the two serves as a huge advantage to JD/MBA students. HBS leans more into providing extracurricular activities, speaker events, and social programming with a business perspective while HLS tends to focus more on learning about experiences in the government, legal industry, and public service. 

Do I have to take the GMAT or GRE if I’m applying to HBS as an HLS student?

All HBS applicants are required to take either the GMAT or the GRE. HLS applicants are required to take either the GRE or the LSAT. It is a matter of personal preference in deciding which to take but would also make sense just to take the GRE. The websites for each test offer detailed information on the test format, content, and procedures.  

When seeking summer internships, which school’s resources do JD/MBAs use?

Both schools have intensive resources dedicated to finding summer internships that are intended to lead to full-time opportunities. For the first two years, summer internship opportunities are highly dependent on whichever school JD/MBA students start with. For instance, if students start the program at HLS, they will have access to HLS career resources and if they start at HBS, they will have access to HBS opportunities. HLS offers an in-depth Early Interview Program (EIP) in August after the first year (1L) at HLS that allows students to bid and interview for multiple law firms. HBS organizes an on-campus interview program during January term during the first year (RC) that connects students to business employers in a variety of functions and industries.  For the last two years of the program, students will have access to career resources at both schools. Don’t forget that that the personal and professional networks at both HLS and HBS will also give students leads!