Kellogg | Mr. Engineer Volunteer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Operations Analyst
GMAT Waived, GPA 3.3
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Kellogg | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.15
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indian Dreamer
GRE 331, GPA 8.5/10
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86
Kellogg | Mr. Innovator
GRE 300, GPA 3.75
London Business School | Ms. Private Equity Angel
GMAT 660, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Ms. Indian Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 9.18/10
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Yale | Ms. Biotech
GMAT 740, GPA 3.29
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Stanford GSB | Ms. Global Empowerment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.66
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
Harvard | Mr. Renewables Athlete
GMAT 710 (1st take), GPA 3.63
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Mr. Armenian Geneticist
GRE 331, GPA 3.7
Berkeley Haas | Mr. 1st Gen Grad
GMAT 740, GPA 3.1
Ross | Mr. Travelpreneur
GMAT 730, GPA 2.68
London Business School | Ms. Numbers
GMAT 730, GPA 3.5
IU Kelley | Mr. Fortune 500
N U Singapore | Mr. Naval Officer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.2
NYU Stern | Ms. Entertainment Strategist
GMAT Have not taken, GPA 2.92
INSEAD | Ms. Spaniard Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 8.5/10.00
NYU Stern | Mr. Army Prop Trader
GRE 313, GPA 2.31

Who’s Smarter? Law Or Biz Students

Tracy Branding, a Harvard law school student

Tracy Branding, a Harvard law school student

Who’s smarter? MBAs or law school students?

That provocative and tongue-in-check question was asked of two Harvard Law School students by The Harbus, the student newspaper at Harvard Business School. And the answers, though hardly definitive, were more than a little bit surprising.

The would-be attorneys–Lauren Shohat and Tracy Branding–say that business school types are much more adept with numbers and far more likely to be ‘people smart’ than their counterparts at law school. They also think that MBAs are more aggressive, certainly more willing to play hard ball in a one-on-one negotiation.


“I will say, I’m mathematically challenged so when I watch somebody analyze a financial model and quickly run numbers in their head at lightning speed, I find it to be very impressive,” Branding told The Harbus. “I wouldn’t say that makes them more intelligent, but it’s skill I don’t have so I’m constantly impressed by that. I do think that, based on my experience at negotiation workshop at the law school—which admittedly is a little more focused on interpersonal skills and more touchy feely—comparing that experience with negotiating with law students to the negotiation course here, I would say that HBS students are much more willing to play hard-ball and much more strategy-driven and aggressive.

On the other hand, they seem to think that law school students are better at digging into and understanding the dense text of documents. “In terms of who’s smarter, I would say that on average, and this is a big generalization, that HBS students tend to be a little more “people smart” in terms of social interactions,” believes Shohat, who had worked in corporate marketing for JPMorgan before going to Harvard law. “But at the same time, the law students are more detail-oriented and are better in terms of digging into the text of a document, whereas business school students are more experienced with numbers and the bottom line. The short answer to your question is that they’re both smart, but just in different ways.”

Adds Branding: “Law students are more verbal. An HBS guy in our class said he thought 30 pages was a ton of reading, whereas for us that’s not too much at all. But also mentioned he finds it difficult to read and comprehend contractual provisions.  Law school students have honed those skills and are better at it. Just the same way that I’m amazed he can run numbers in his head quickly, he’s amazed that we can make sense of extremely dense legal language.”


And then there’s looks. Both women agreed that the guys in business school have it all over the guys in law school.

“The guys are definitely better looking at the business school,” both told The Harbus “in unison.” “No questions asked. No doubt about it.”

Of course, that’s only the opinion of two Harvard law school students.


About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.