For attorney Thomas Kaufman, there were many benefits from attending Wharton’s MBA for Executives Program, but on his list he includes something a bit unusual – cheese steaks. He explains that when he began the Wharton program in 1999, his middle child was a sophomore in Wharton’s undergraduate program so his weekend trips to Philadelphia gave them opportunities to hang out and enjoy that local specialty.
Among the other benefits, he lists a “mature” class and a strong program in finance. A partner at Hunton & Williams in Washington, D.C. practicing in the area of finance, Kaufman says that the program not only boosted his credibility with clients, but also helped him understand his clients’ businesses better. “Sometimes clients hold lawyers askance and think we don’t understand their businesses, but if you are a lawyer who went to Wharton, clients believe you understand the numbers,” he says. “That was a huge benefit because I can now talk to them as a business person.”
Kaufman recalls that when he began the Executive MBA program, his fellow partners were very supportive, but questioned if he’d have the energy for such a rigorous program. Not only did he keep up his billable hours, but he also maintained a part-time teaching position at Georgetown Law School. “Of course there were times — like the last month of exams — when I didn’t get a lot of sleep,” he laughs.
But it was worth it because the curriculum was “immediately useful” in his practice and complemented his JD degree. “In fact, when people found out I was in the Wharton program, they would send me their corporate spreadsheets and business plans and ask for comments, which was very cool. I’ve been through a lot of academic programs and this was without a doubt the most rewarding educational experience I’ve had,” he says, noting that his favorite course was Mathematical Modeling of Securities.
Highlights of the program included a project on Cisco Systems related to post merger integration and a study with Booz Allen. “We got to talk to key people at Cisco at a time when they were acquiring a company a month and they really took time to talk to us. The other project allowed us to spend an hour with the CEO of Booz Allen, which was an outstanding opportunity.”
An unexpected bonus, says Kaufman, was how much he learned from his fellow students. He explains, “As a teacher, I always thought you get the most knowledge from the instructor, but because you have so many team projects in the EMBA program, you learn as much from your fellow students. The classes were excellent, but when you work with your fellow students you learn even more.”
His commute on the train from Washington, D.C. allowed him time to get to know those fellow classmates even better. “There were 21 of us commuting in my class and we studied on the way up for class and on the way back we partied to celebrate the end of the week,” recalls Kaufman.
“For attorneys interested in the world of corporate finance or understanding business, I couldn’t recommend the Wharton EMBA program more. I got more practical applications out of that program than anything I’ve done in my career,” he says.