The joint degree program at Harvard started in 1969 and still offers a J.D.-M.B.A. to roughly 12 graduates per year. The list of all-time graduates from the program is full of big names, with the biggest being that of presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Romney founded Bain Capital and is joined on the list of 500 graduates by Bruce Wasserstein. Wasserstein was in charge of Lazard until he died in 2009. Also on the list are the heads of Canyon Capital Advisors, Silver Lake Partners and Crestview Partners. C. James Koch, the founder of Boston Beer Company, is also on the list of graduates. Theodore V. Wells Jr., one of the United States top trial lawyers, also graduated from the program.
“What was special about these people was that they had bandwidth,” Malcolm S. Salter said. Salter is an emeritus business professor who aided in the creation of the joint program. “They had to be driven, hard-working and organized to a degree that was unusual even for Harvard business or law grad students.”
A 1998 graduate of the program, Guhan Subramanian, now serves as the faculty chairman. Subramanian said that the students could be seen as “résumé builders who haven’t figured out what to do with their lives and are just checking off all the boxes.” He also said that the students are interested in mastering both the legal and business industries. Before a student can apply for the program, he or she must be admitted to the law school and the business school separately.
“I was among the most conservative people at the law school and one of the most liberal people at the business school,” said Peter Halasz, a partner at the law firm Schulte Roth & Zabel. Zabel graduated from the program in the 1980s. “Studying at both exposes you to many different kinds of people and various sides of an argument.”
The former head of Putnam Investments and Freddie Mac, Charles E. Haldeman Jr., was one year in front of Romney in the program. “Back then, people were trying to save the world. Because I was interested in business, and doing well economically mattered to me, and I didn’t think the country was controlled by evil people, the law school students did think of me as a little different.”
The quality of life and earnings potential are reasons as to why most graduates of the joint program at Harvard end up in business instead of law, according to Lawrence Golub. Golub is the chief executive for Golub Capital, which is an investment firm. “One learns that the life of associate at a big corporate law firm is demanding, unpleasant and not as lucrative as what you can do on the business side.” Golub is a 1984 graduate of the program. He also created the program’s alumni society.
Romney is one of only two alumni of the program to enjoy a high-profile career in politics. The other is Christopher Cox, who was a congressman and former Securities and Exchange Commission chairman.