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Doctor, lawyer, architect, or engineer – regardless of your profession, an advanced understanding of business practices can be beneficial to any career. Dual MBA degrees are increasing in popularity at business schools around the country, and many are finding their way online.

Deborah Sweeney said she was able to double her career opportunities by earning a joint Juris Doctorate (JD)/MBA degree from Pepperdine University . Pepperdine’s Graziadio School of Business will welcome its first class of online MBA students in January for its new Online Fully Employed MBA .

Sweeney enrolled in Pepperdine’s JD/MBA program right after earning a dual undergraduate degree in criminology, law, and society and psychology and social behavior at the University of California Irvine.

“I always knew I wanted to be lawyer, but I realized a lot of practice of law involves business, especially if you want to start your own practice,” Sweeney said. “I got into Pepperdine’s MBA program, and I started to take classes at the law school and business school at the same time. I was able to graduate in just over three years for the whole program. It was really an incredible experience that has served me well.”

After she completed her joint degree, Sweeney began her career in a law firm primarily doing litigation, but found her law practice evolving toward corporate law. Her business background came into play, as she helped clients with development and growth strategies for small businesses. She later went in-house to do corporate legal affairs for a company that was eventually bought out by Intuit. Sweeney bought out that division from Intuit and founded MyCorporation, an online legal document filing service for small businesses.

“Early in my career, obviously having my law degree was important, but having my business background was what really made the difference because I understood the nuances of going into a corporate environment,” Sweeney said. “In a law environment, you business degree is highly valued. In a law firm, everyone has a law degree, but not everyone has a business degree, so you stand out and you are unique in that regard,” Sweeney said. “Conversely, in a business environment, we stand out with a law degree. It enables you to double your opportunities.”


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In addition to separating herself from the crowd, Sweeney attributes the success of her business, in part, to the skills she learned while earning her MBA.

“When you are working in your own business, you begin to see the value in the courses that seemed more theoretical in business school,” she said. “Small business owners tend to take on a lot of debt in the establishments of their business. They can’t afford the big ticket expenses related with hiring employees and setting up payroll account or incorporating and forming an LLC. My business and law backgrounds enabled me to take on a lot more responsibility for things that would ordinarily have to be outsourced.”

Sweeney wholeheartedly recommends dual degree programs, challenging as they may be. Though her JD/MBA was on campus, Sweeney said she supports online education, and is currently participating in an online entrepreneurship program with Stanford. To prospective MBA students, Sweeney advises they look at the big picture and not get mired down in the details.

“When you first start an MBA program or law school, it can get so overwhelming that you are just trying to get through the next class,” she said. “You need to take a step back and really value what you are learning, take advantage of all the opportunities and exposure, the professors, and the networking that both business and law school provide. While at Pepperdine, I developed some really important business relationships with whom I still stay in contact with today.”

Follow Elise Rambaud Marrion on Twitter @elisermarrion.