Explaining Your Executive JD to Employers
An executive juris doctor (EJD) has the potential to open up many doors professionally, yet a question that many EJD students may ask is "How do I explain my degree to a prospective employer?" Below are some tips on how to communicate the value of your EJD effectively to perspective employers before and during an interview.
The roots of the EJD messaging issue are twofold:
The EJD is unique in American law and education. It is not like a Master of Justice, Master of Science in Law, or any other master's degree program. It is rigorous program of study, taking three full academic years in a law school to accomplish.
It may create a misimpression in employers' minds. Employers may mistakenly equate an EJD degree with an Executive Master of Business Administration (MBA) program, which is offered at several other academic institutions. However, Executive MBAs are often earned by attending a number of onsite or online sessions over as short a time as a few weeks.
The Suggested Solution
The challenge you face is to turn an employer's unfamiliarity with the EJD into a positive, enthusiastic impression, using the persuasive skills you acquired in law school. Here are some recommended strategies designed to accomplish this:
Educate, enlighten, elaborate. Given that employers are unlikely to have heard of an EJD, the first step in your campaign must be to educate and enlighten them, which includes elaborating on what an EJD involves and demands of a student.
You need to be able to craft a compelling elevator speech, a very brief explanation that is easy to understand and process quickly. With respect to a prospective employer, you will only have two opportunities to do this:
On your initial application. Here, your elevator speech will be in writing. It needs to be effective and efficient, because if you cannot succinctly explain an EJD, you may not get the chance to describe it in more depth at the interview. Points to include:
The EJD is not a JD, but is an innovative law degree offered by a law school.
The EJD is designed for individuals who want to become extremely knowledgeable about the law and develop legal skills, but do not intend to practice law as an attorney.
The EJD requires 3 full academic years of law study.
EJD candidates take the same classes as JD candidates and are graded under the same standards.
EJD candidates do not take a bar examination.
The EJD degree qualifies a graduate to function in any law-related position that does not require a JD or bar admission.
At the job interview. You can reasonably assume that, if you are asked to interview, then your initial application strategy worked, at least up to a point. Do not, however, assume that you have won the EJD explanation battle. It may be that you piqued the employer's curiosity about the EJD and that he or she is not necessarily convinced but wants to hear more.
It helps if you refer the employer back to what you included about the EJD in your initial written application or cover letter (incorporation by reference is sufficient; you do not have to read out loud what you wrote), and use that as a platform upon which to elaborate further.
Demonstrate Its Value
Now that you have educated the prospective employer, the crucial question he or she will want answered is "How can you add value to my organization?" You need to be able to answer that without hesitation and point to specific ways in which hiring you would benefit the employer.
The answer to the value-added query should include:
A summary of the legal skills you bring to the table—analytical prowess, problem detection and solving, weighing risks and protecting against them, counseling ability, and so forth
Your legal content (substantive) knowledge of areas of law and business relevant to the particular employer
How these relate directly to this employer's business and its needs
To do this effectively, you need to learn as much about the employer, its industry, and its current issues, as well as its prospects and near-term challenges. (It will be beneficial if you also can learn some information about the interviewer[s] as well.)
For example, if you are applying for a position as a risk manager for an underwriting department in a financial institution, you can discuss how you understand and can anticipate the legal issues that might arise from certain transactions or events, and can help craft documents to help avoid some of those risks.
Or if you are seeking a position as a human resources manager within a tech company, you can highlight your appreciation of the intellectual property protection issues that the company is likely to face in hiring and terminating employees, and understand the dynamics of litigation and so can effectively and efficiently interface with their legal department or outside counsel, ultimately saving the company time and money and producing better outcomes.
In addition to your response to the value-added question (if unasked, you need to both ask and answer it yourself), you can bolster your case if you weave your value into the questions you will invariably be given an opportunity to ask the interviewer. One great question to ask (if applicable) is "How does your [office/department/section] enhance the value of the organization and promote its mission and goals?" Any answer to this question by your interviewer opens the door for you to demonstrate how you would contribute not only your added value, but also how you can enhance the value of the hiring entity to the overall organization.
This is not just intended to be the converse of the question to you about your own value-add. It has the psychological effect of putting the interviewer on the spot and changing the power equation of the interview toward you, the interviewee. At the same time, it is also an imprint question, one that the interviewer will recall after you leave and later when it comes time to evaluate candidates and make a job offer.