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MBAs More Uncouth than J.D.s?

Vivia Chen

October 21, 2010

IStock_000008643896X#1CFE85 Lawyers can't help comparing themselves to their MBA counterparts. For starters, it irks them that those B-schoolers are making a lot more dough, even though everyone knows that law schools demand more intellectual firepower. But J.D.s also fear deep down that MBAs are more socially astute, slicker, and maybe better-looking. How else to explain why MBAs are masters of the universe, while J.D.s are their hired help?

Well, J.D.s, feel inferior no more. It turns out MBAs are not only socially inept, but smelly to boot. The investment banking club at Columbia Business School was so alarmed by students' interview style that it sent out this memo (via DealBreaker):

It has come to our attention . . . that some of you may not have followed personal hygiene basics during recruiting events. We understand that it is an incredibly intense recruiting period, and is very hard to find time for yourself, but this is a friendly reminder on some dress code and personal hygiene basics.

The memo then goes on to say: "Brush your teeth regularly, or have a mint/mouth refreshers before going to recruiting events (avoid chewing gums)," and "Carry antiperspirant with you if you are worried about sweating. Don’t wear too much cologne/perfume."

The situation at Columbia B-School must be quite dire, because this was the second memo on interview etiquette this fall. The first one, also sent out by the I-bank club, reminded students not to "get drunk or gobble down food in front of bankers no matter how hungry and tired you are."

But it's not just bad grooming habits and poor etiquette. The students are also louts:

It has come to our attention that some of you have already managed to become notorious for their [sic] willingness to elbow their peers out of the circle around senior bankers and virtually attack the bankers with questions, thus preventing other students from networking and participating in the conversation. . . Let your classmates play as well. Furthermore, such behavior shows that you are aggressive and noncollegial, and therefore not a pleasant person to work 100-hour weeks with.

Imagine not being pleasant enough to work with for those 100-hour weeks! Perhaps I'm giving law students way too much credit, but I honestly don't remember anyone being this awful or so deficient in personal hygiene--at least not during interview season. (Not to be picky, but the I-bank club  could use a refresher on grammar.)

If these future business leaders treat their peers so poorly, think how they'll be treating their poor lawyers. All I can say is: Brace yourself.

So to those of you in the legal profession: Your suspicions are correct. You are smarter and nicer  than your MBA siblings. Pity, though, you will always make less.

Readers, do you ever wish you'd gone to B-school instead?

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Photo: CarlssonInc/iStock


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I see one big difference between law school and business school. If the memo quoted in the article is accurate English is not important at the Columbia Business School. I hope that the students and professors are a bit more proficient in written English than the administrator who wrote the memo.

Amusing article. I went to business school after 10 years as a lawyer, and found that while I definitely learnt a boat-load of new information and gained some new ways of looking and analysing situations, I (along with the other two lawyers in my class) also brought a different perspective that was new to many of our other peers and indeed lecturers.

Lawyers are trained differently from business school people, and while I think they can benefit from a wider business education (see http://intelligentchallenge.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/your-training-was-useless-%C2%A0discuss/) there's no doubt that the business world can learn from lawyers too, and no need for either group to feel inferior.

Good catch, Mr. Kelly. It's now corrected.
V. Chen

Not to be picky, but Ms. Chen could do with some remedial work on her spelling -- "officiers"?

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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