Good Business: Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business scholars describe how the program has helped them shape their career goals

Dara Liss ’24 says that when she was exploring a sea of law school options, NYU Law’s Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business immediately stood out. “I watched a video of Professors [Helen] Scott and [Gerald] Rosenfeld discussing the program and immediately thought, ‘Oh, that really describes what I want out of law school,’” says Liss, who was working as a management consultant at the time. “I want to understand how law and business are interconnected and I want to be able to explore that overlap with other people who are interested in the same area.” Since matriculating, she adds, “the mentorship and support from program faculty, and the friendship from other fellows [in the program], have been invaluable.”

Launched in 2007, the Jacobson Program provides scholarships, an extensive mentoring network, and a tailored curriculum in partnership with NYU’s Stern School of Business, to students who are interested in nontraditional legal careers at the intersection of law and business. Robert Jackson Jr., Pierrepont Family Professor of Law and a former commissioner for the US Securities and Exchange Commission, has led the program since September, while two of its founding faculty members, Professor of Law Helen Scott and Professor of Practice and Distinguished Scholar in Residence Gerald Rosenfeld, remain actively involved. 

Among the program’s offerings are guidance and assistance for students who decide to pursue a joint JD/MBA with NYU’s Stern School of Business; opportunities for students to create their own capstone project with other business-minded law students; and the Amy and Brian Schorr Family Luncheon Speaker Series, in which recent alumni speak with students about their career path. Students may apply for the program before matriculating or after their 1L year.

NYU Law spoke to four current Jacobson Scholars about what led them to apply, their experience in the program, and how Jacobson has helped prepare them for their careers.

Melanie Shapsis Jacobson JD/MBA ’24

I started considering law school more seriously when I was working at a real estate technology startup, as I understood that the legal environment was driving and shaping many of the business decisions we made.

Melanie Shapsis
Melanie Shapsis ’24

When I was doing research on law schools, I knew I was interested specifically in the intersection of law and business, so I focused on programs and schools that would allow me to explore this. I found the Jacobson Leadership Program in Law and Business to be unparalleled in [its] opportunity to allow me to meet professors, students, and alumni who were like-minded in trying to find ways to merge legal and business interests.

After attending several Schorr Luncheons and speaking with alumni, some of whom were JD/MBAs, I realized the dual-degree JD/MBA program would be ideal for me. During my first year of law school, I applied and was accepted [to the dual-degree program]. Jacobson’s curricular, financial, and resource support made that decision possible.

It is also unique to find a population of students that have such incredible and different backgrounds, experiences, and non-traditional career goals with respect to pursuing the legal and business interests. Having such a strong and accomplished network behind me through both the Jacobson and JD/MBA programs has really shaped my amazing experience at NYU.

Maya Konstantino ’24

Prior to coming to law school, I worked as a business analyst for a biotechnology incubator, and then I founded a pharmaceutical startup. That got me interested in social entrepreneurship and trying to change corporate law in order to move social movements through corporate law, rather than outside of it.

Maya Konstantino ’24

After I interviewed for the Jacobson program before attending NYU Law, Helen and Jerry connected me to a former Jacobson, Samantha Ku [JD/MBA ’17] and she has since helped me a ton. Because of her advice, I ended up working at Synchron this summer, which is a brain-computer interface company.

Now I’m in a class with Professor Jackson, who is awesome. I am also now in the Furman Academic Program, because I’m realizing that I’m interested in pursuing a career as a legal academic. I’m going to a firm this summer—but in having conversations with Helen and Jerry and Rob, I have started to realize that I just love talking about corporate law.

While the path may look different, the underlying goal is very similar: in academia or at a firm I’m interested in thinking about how changes in corporate law can affect social outcomes. I thought I could only do this by being a lawyer at a startup or by starting a social entrepreneurship company, but it might be more impactful if I do it by thinking about the structures of the law and how they affect primary behavior, and doing this through an academic career.

The faculty at Jacobson have been instrumental in this: they care about you, they want you to succeed, and they are always available and just really encouraging and brilliant. Rob, Helen and Jerry have a wealth of knowledge about everything and they, again, are somehow always available. I wasn’t expecting that.

When you come into a scholarship program, you don’t think the named professors or the professors leading it are going to actually be in touch with you all the time. But with Jacobson, that has been the case.

Dara Liss ’24

In my undergraduate [years at Emory University], I was a double major in Arabic and Finance, and after graduating, I went into management consulting with the thought that I wanted to do something in business, but I wasn’t quite sure what that was. Consulting gives you a chance to explore a lot of different business opportunities. After working for a few years, I found that I was really questioning a lot of the legal underpinnings and the larger structure—the governance—of organizations I was working for and how the law influenced organizations’ decisions.

Dara Liss
Dara Liss ’24

That led me to apply to law school. As I was filling out applications, I saw that NYU had the Jacobson Program, which had the specialization in law and business that I was looking for. It was definitely a big reason why I applied to NYU.

One of my favorite things about the Jacobson Program is that it offers you a ton of opportunities, both in terms of mentorship, helping you design coursework, setting you up with a network, and bringing in speakers to talk about their career paths, but then you also have amazing faculty mentors who help you navigate these resources. Knowing that there were professors that I could talk to one-on-one [whom] I felt comfortable with was really important to me as I was navigating what ended up being a pretty eventful and rewarding but also overwhelming 1L year.

The faculty offered advice even before we started at NYU on how to study, how to manage our time, what opportunities were out there, connecting us with some of the older 2L and 3L Jacobson students and Jacobson alumni, and ultimately helping me realize that I could take many business classes at the law school and at Stern even without pursuing a JD/MBA. Likewise, they guided me in my decision to work at a law firm. Whether I specialize in antitrust or bankruptcy or corporate securities, I’m not yet sure, but I know the Jacobson faculty will be there to guide me through that decision as well.

At the end of my 1L year, I was interested in the influence the federal judiciary had on a lot of larger business decisions, and so I talked with the faculty and weighed that question of, should I do a business internship? Should I do a clerkship? And they encouraged me to broaden my perspective by taking a clerkship my 1L summer [with the Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit in New Jersey].

In addition to the amazing alumni network, I’m really grateful for my fellow Jacobson students. It’s been invaluable to do this together, and I already know they will continue to be resources throughout my career.

Michael Modak-Truran JD/MBA ’23

Watch video of Modak-Truran discussing his path to the Law School and his favorite parts of being in the program:

These interviews have been edited and condensed. Posted January 23, 2023.