Jonathan Strauss, LLMLE '12
1. What is your background?
My undergrad was at the University of Georgia (Honors Program, B.B.A. in International Business with a minor in Spanish, magna cum laude) and I attended Emory University School of Law for my J.D. (with Honors). I was a portfolio analyst for Liberty Mutual Group prior to law school. After law school, I joined Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft as an associate. After a year there I left for a fellowship at Columbia University's Vale Columbia Center for Sustainable International Investment. I've done some ad hoc work as well, and am part of an ongoing venture to help bring certain biomedical technology to market.
2. Why did you decide to pursue an LLM in Law and Entrepreneurship?
I decided to pursue the LLMLE only after much thought. I am unsure whether I want to return to private practice and take the traditional career path through a law firm's ranks. I've considered a few different start-ups, as well as business-side work and consulting, as possible alternative career tracks where having a formal legal education can be a real asset. However, even if I ultimately decide to return to private practice, I feel that I need to better understand business concerns in order to better understand clients. The LLMLE program can help with all of these possibilities. Being open-ended allows me to tailor the program to suit my needs and my interests, and I'm using it to expand and improve upon my legal and business skills. I did consider an MBA program, but did not want to commit to two years out of the job market and felt that pursuing a standalone MBA (rather than a JD/MBA) might be perceived as an attempt to completely move away from using my legal background, rather than an attempt to build on it.
3. What has been your favorite thing about Duke's Law and Entrepreneurship LLM so far?
The community. We have been given an incredibly warm welcome from the faculty, staff, Duke alumni and professionals that have an interest in our program. Much of what we gain through the program comes from the connections we make here, and I've found that doors are always open to us.
4. What advice would you give to an incoming LLMLE student to make for a successful year?
This is still a new and evolving program, so be flexible and open-minded when you come to Durham. Have an idea of what you'd like out of the program, but understand that that may change as you begin to understand what the program and the community offers (and keep in mind that the program will adapt to you, as well). Be prepared to give the lion's share of your time to this undertaking. Classwork can be demanding, as can related Duke extracurricular events (such as the Start-Up Challenge), and you will need to make the most of the many networking opportunities that will come your way. Above all, be optimistic. This program is a group experience, and becoming close with a positive group of talented and diverse professionals can offer dividends for a lifetime.
5. How are you involved in entrepreneurial endeavors and how do you plan to engage with the entrepreneurial community upon graduation?
I've been involved with my own start-up since well before coming to Duke. The RTP offers many, many opportunities to interact with successful entrepreneurs. In the immediate vicinity of Durham, there are several hotbeds for start-ups that I, along with many of my classmates, have begun to get familiarized with. Much of my remaining time at Duke will be spent on building connections with individuals in this local community. I am still uncertain regarding my career path after graduation. I may look to focus solely on my earlier start-up, or to join a young enterprise in Durham. As an alternative, I may seek to advise these entrepreneurs after returning to a law firm.+