Marked by 10 Years of Success, Law & Business Program Named in Honor of Venture Capitalist John Glynn '65
Today Ravi Agarwal works in the mergers and acquisitions group at the law firm Simpson Thacher in New York City, but he had little exposure to the economic and business principles he would need to excel in his job until he participated in a unique program at the University of Virginia School of Law.
Agarwal, who graduated in 2009, credits the courses he took in the Law School's newly named John W. Glynn, Jr. Law & Business Program with helping him better understand how to solve problems facing his clients in the corporate world.
A double major in biology and political science, Agarwal did not have formal exposure to economics, finance or business in college.
"Other than my work in a neuroscience lab and a few pre-med classes, my coursework was not about true problem-solving," Agarwal said. "After going through UVA Law and the Law & Business Program, I [gained] a new mindset about how problems should be approached and thought about — particularly that we often should assess rules and business relationships in terms of economic efficiency."
Launched at UVA Law in 2002 to offer students experience in business concepts, the program has been named in honor of John W. Glynn, a 1965 alumnus of UVA Law and the founder of Glynn Capital Management, a Silicon Valley venture capital firm that was an early investor in Intel Corp., as well as Facebook and LinkedIn.
"I saw the Law & Business Program as a great avenue to expand the horizons for our students and to give them some tools that would help them in working with their clients in their legal practice, but also an appreciation for [how] business people think and how they address the complex problems and issues that they're constantly facing," Glynn said.
The program, which is not a track or separate degree program, integrates business and legal analysis in the law school classroom, and is designed to teach students the skills needed to understand and better serve corporate clients. It includes courses on the basics of accounting and finance, enhanced versions of core business law courses, and a number of intensive short courses taught by senior counsel and executive officers who are leaders in their field.
"I was attracted to the Law & Business Program because it's a chance to expose our students to topics and, more importantly, to the people teaching those courses, who could inspire them and add to their knowledge and passion to pursue their own dreams," Glynn said.
Glynn recently endowed the program with a major gift that will help make permanent the Law School's curricular commitment to business, finance and investing, and further student and faculty activity in those areas.
"We are grateful for the continued support of John Glynn, whose success should be inspirational for law students looking to make an impact on the business world," said Vice Dean George Geis. "The real key to our momentum in this area has been UVA's ability to attract leading lawyers, executives and judges who are willing to bring their experiences into the classroom."
More than 10 years after the program launched, it has proven popular with students and practitioners who have participated in teaching courses. The program has attracted instructors such as Joseph Gladden '67, a former general counsel and executive officer of The Coca-Cola Company; Jim Donovan, a managing director of Goldman Sachs; Ned Kelly '81, a vice chairman of Citigroup Inc.; Christof Fritzen, the former managing director of Deutsche Bank AG; and Myron T. Steele '70 LL.M. '04, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Delaware, the state where most major businesses are incorporated and where the majority of corporate law litigation is adjudicated. (More)
Alumni who took the coursework are also finding success in their careers, built in part on the skills and foundational concepts they learned in the program.
Though the program helped prepare Agarwal for complex work involving private equity acquisitions and strategic transactions representing middle- and large-cap public companies, he said the program is invaluable for students interested in any number of career fields
"Whether you expect to practice corporate law, litigation or public service work, or even do something completely unrelated, you will learn many useful skills and concepts in the Law & Business courses that can be applied to numerous jobs and situations," he said.
Anna Shearer, who graduated from UVA Law in 2007, is a vice president at Barclays Capital in New York City, working in the field of equities derivatives.
Looking back on her time at the Law School, Shearer said the Law & Business Program's array of short courses gave students a look into the real world of business.
"I took one on M&A, for example, that took us through exactly what a deal looks like," she said. "Those kinds of courses that show you what the documents look like [and] what is involved in one of those big transactions, taught by someone from within the industry, were extremely helpful."
The program also allows students to connect with some of the top business law professors in the world. Shearer, who studied computer science as an undergraduate, started working in derivatives during her first summer while serving as a research assistant to Dean Paul G. Mahoney, an expert on securities regulation, law and economic development, corporate finance, financial derivatives and contracts.
"During my 2L year, I worked on side projects for him throughout the year," she said. "It was a great experience. Every time I have something [go well] in my career, I always email him."
Shearer said the most useful course she took was the Law & Business Program's Accounting and Corporate Finance class.
"I would recommend that to everyone," she said. "It teaches you the vocabulary you will need to know. You won't be doing that right when you get out of law school and become a lawyer, but you need to understand what other people do."
Agarwal echoed that statement, adding that UVA Law courses on securities regulation and corporate governance also proved critical.
"Being able to understand financial statements and understand the business vocabulary is incredibly helpful in communicating with clients and counterparts and understanding the goals your clients are trying to achieve," he said. "Additionally, almost regardless of the type of M&A transaction I am working on, corporate governance concepts often come to the forefront, especially when advising a board on how it should be thinking about its options."
John B. Esterhay, a 2006 alumnus of UVA Law, said his education at the Law School helped prepare him well for his career in management consulting at McKinsey & Company.
"The analytical thinking skills in management consulting are similar to legal skills," he said. "For example, consultants must gather facts, spot issues and apply logic to break down complex problems. Just like lawyers, consultants analyze situations from different perspectives, and must identify and understand different stakeholders and interests."
He added that his time at UVA Law also helped him hone his oral and written communication skills, both of which have proven essential in his career."
Just like lawyers, consultants must ask precise questions, listen for nuances and make arguments in a way that is persuasive," he said. "Communication skills are particularly important, because consultants often recommend changes, and it takes a lot of influencing and persuasion to help large organizations to change in positive ways."
Esterhay — who co-teaches a January term course with Geis on applied problem-solving — recalled taking a number of "outstanding" courses in the Law & Business Program.
"In particular, the securities regulation course that Dean Mahoney taught stands out in my mind," he said. "He integrated accounting and financial analyses into the course, and that made me more comfortable with many concepts earlier in my career."
The program, Esterhay added, is a great option for any law student interested in business.
"It's a unique way to learn about business practices and culture, without enrolling in a combined J.D.-MBA program, since that option usually requires either an additional year of study or taking classes year-round and foregoing summer work experience," he said.