Joint degree gives law students head start

Beginning this semester, graduate students in the Frost School of Music and the School of Law will have the chance to broaden their academic horizons, with the first ever joint law and music business program in the country.

According to Sandy Abraham, the executive liaison of interdisciplinary programs and initiatives at the School of Law, the program is designed so that graduates will have the qualifications to be attorneys in the music industry.

“This program is designed to have graduate students obtain a J.D. (juris doctor or law) degree and an M.M. (master of music) degree in music business and entertainment industries in one or two additional semesters beyond the three-year J.D. program,” Abraham said.

Abraham also said that there was a high demand for the program, which currently has 44 students enrolled, and that at this time there is no cap on the number of students that can join the program.

“There was significant interest by J.D. students in the music business field. Once students expressed interest, the program was put together last fall semester, and it was announced in early February 2010. Within a few daysm we already had applications,” she said.

Second-year law student Jason Cooper was one of those who couldn’t wait to apply.

“I first heard about this program last year when it was first announced. I decided to apply as soon as I heard about it since my career goal is to be an attorney in the music industry,” said Cooper, who is currently enrolled in the program.

Jason hopes this program will give him a leg up on the competition in trying to become an entertainment attorney.

“I believe that coming out of school with the joint degree and being able to tell employers that I am already familiar with the inner workings of the music industry will definitely be of infinite value,” he said.

According to Professor Serona Elton, who teaches the music business aspect of the program, the joint degree gives students the option of pursuing two different types of internships, one in each respective field.

“One type is a legal internship, where the student would be working with legal matters under the supervision of a lawyer. A student might do this type of internship at a law practice in the entertainment law field, or at an entertainment company with a legal department,” Elton said.

For those who aren’t interested in the law field, there is the non-legal internship, with an emphasis on the business aspect of the entertainment industry.

“Students may be working with any of a number of different subjects such as A&R, marketing, licensing or royalties, just to name a few. A student may do this type of internship at just about any company in the entertainment industry,” Elton said.

It is because of internship opportunities like these, combined with the flexibility of the degree, that Jason hopes he will further separate himself from the pack of job-hungry graduates out there.

“By having a familiarity with the types of agreements and contracts used in the music industry, an entertainment attorney hiring a new associate will be able to save much time and money that would otherwise be spent familiarizing employees with tasks and correcting beginner mistakes,” Cooper said.

First-year joint degree student Michelle Ozog is also optimistic about her future with the versatile degree on her side.

“I believe this degree will allow us to stand out in the crowd and have more networking opportunities. Also, we will know much more about every facet of the music industry than those that did not take these courses,” Ozog said. “The program is great so far. It’s a nice break from law classes and the professors are great and experienced in the music business. The two music classes I am in right now are basically all focused on music, but of course there are talks of contracts since that is a big part of the music business.”

Anthony Scarpulla may be contacted at