US Attorney Career Path Next Steps: Dual-qualification or an MBA?
We previously looked at the factors to consider for US attorneys weighing up the benefits of dual-qualification over an LLM to advance their careers. Some US attorneys looking to optimize their career path may instead be considering an MBA over dual-qualifying as an English solicitor via the QLTS in order to practice English law.
If you are reading this article, you will already know what an MBA is, and are looking for some guidance as to factors to consider when making a choice between the MBA or dual-qualifying as an English solicitor through the QLTS. The key concern to bear in mind, however, is that the MBA and QLTS are two fundamentally-different qualifications; the QLTS being a professional qualification that enables access to the profession, while the MBA is an academic qualification focused on business and management.
Both the MBA (Master of Business Administration) and the QLTS (Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme) require significant time commitment and involve a heavy study workload. Some candidates may be tempted to study for both the MBA and the QLTS at the same time, but we would advise against this. Unless you are able to study full-time, you will find it very difficult to commit to study, a full-time job and your other personal or family commitments. There is no point preparing for two assessments simultaneously if the reality is that you can’t keep up the pace of study. You will increase your risk of failing one or both assessments, wasting time and incurring unnecessary costs.
The eligibility criteria for the QLTS is streamlined. You simply need to be a qualified lawyer in a jurisdiction recognised by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). There are no academic, work experience, language or administrative pre-requisites beyond this. The QLTS can therefore be taken by any lawyer qualified from a recognised jurisdiction at any time of their career. This means you don’t have to wait or amass experience to evidence prior to sitting the assessments.
MBA programs, by contrast, have different requirements for their application process. Whatever the variation, eligibility requirements for the QLTS assessments are far simpler and easier to meet than even the most straightforward MBA program. Junior US attorneys in particular should be mindful of this; inability to evidence the work experience requirements for their particular MBA program indicates that they may be too early in their career to apply. This is in contrast to the QLTS, where eligible lawyers can attempt the assessment any time and apply for admission as soon as they’re qualified in the relevant recognised jurisdiction).
Nature of the qualification
The MBA is, as the name suggests, a Masters in Business Administration. The overarching emphasis of most MBA courses is on business and management. Career-minded US attorneys seeking to enhance their profile as part of a business case or application for partnership or management roles may therefore find that holding an MBA will help their prospects. Of course, this is subject to the partnership/management track and criteria of the particular organisation and how they view MBA candidates within this framework. There will be little, if any, focus on theory and practice of English law and the MBA does not enable candidates to dual-qualify and practice as English solicitors.
The QLTS is a professional qualification, but does not focus on management or business skills. Instead, the QLTS blends development and assessment of theoretical and practical legal knowledge and skills across a wide range of areas of English law. Successful QLTS candidates are admitted the Roll of Solicitors and can practice English law as English solicitors. Those who pass the QLTS are therefore deemed to have the knowledge and skills required to hold a professional title and practice accordingly.
Delivery of the course
Different providers deliver the MBA depending on the needs of their students. Full-time, part-time, on-campus, distance learning and blended options are all available.
QLTS course providers also offer different options. It is possible for a candidate to prepare for the QLTS entirely without setting foot in a classroom. This means study can fit in around professional and personal commitments and a candidate’s own timetable. The candidate will only need to come to London to sit the assessments themselves.
The costs of taking the MBA can exceed $110,000. For students looking to study full-time, you should also factor in the cost of living if you move somewhere to take the MBA, along with the lost wages during your period of study.
The cost of the QLTS, including course materials and assessment fees, can be less than $9,000. You may study at any time and place that suits you, and you need only leave the US and come to London twice: once to sit the Multiple Choice Test (MCT) and the other to sit the Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which are the two elements of the QLTS assessment.
MBA candidates hold a qualification which is said to bolster their business and managerial credentials and helps them apply for suitable roles. However, there is also a view that “The perceived value of an MBA is probably lower than it was 10-20 years ago” according to some academics, and candidates considering an MBA need to carefully consider an MBA syllabus as against other qualifications to see whether it will meet their objectives and aspirations.
The QLTS enables candidates to hold the prestigious professional qualification of an English solicitor and advise and practice on English law in that capacity. While this qualification lacks the broader business training of the MBA, it opens doors to work in law firms and organisations worldwide on matters of English law. Many successful QLTS candidates have used the qualification to boost their existing role, or use it as a springboard to further and better career opportunities. Many lawyers have also taken the transferable skills afforded by legal training, qualification and experience to many other sectors both in and out of the law.
Which to choose?
This really is down to your own circumstances and your career aspirations. Junior US attorneys may not yet meet the requirements for an MBA program, but can attempt the QLTS assessments straightaway.
Indeed, for junior US attorneys, dual-qualifying as an English solicitor via the QLTS now, then taking the MBA a few years later, when you are no longer a junior and considering managerial or partnership prospects and opportunities, may be the most optimal way to enhance your skills, experience and career prospects. This path evidences your commitment to your career, versatility and capacity for learning and developing beyond your initial qualification training.
For mid to late career US attorneys, the QLTS continues to offer a powerful benefit by way of dual-qualification and access to practice in one of the most widespread and prestigious jurisdictions in the world. For attorneys whose career or practice would gain a significant advantage from this qualification, taking the QLTS is an easy choice to make. Those US attorneys who have no involvement whatsoever in English law and have no plans or need to may find the MBA to confer more advantages and benefits to them.
For the QLTS, we interviewed several of our US-qualified candidates who passed the QLTS assessments as to their background, motivations for taking the QLTS, preparation and assessment experience and how the qualification has helped them. You can view their stories here and these may assist in offering a few examples for your consideration.
If you have any questions about the QLTS that will help you reach a decision based on your own circumstances and aspirations, we’d be happy to answer and offer any perspectives that may assist – you can get in touch with us here.
- Tips for Success in the QLTS Multiple Choice Test (MCT) Assessment
- How to Become a Lawyer in the UK
- Supreme Court Plays Wild Card to Cash in Ghosh’s Dishonesty Chips
- Joint Statement regarding a Settlement Agreement between the Law Society of England and Wales and QLTS School
- Important Updates to the MCT Course (April 2017)