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Megan Carpenter is the Dean of the Franklin Pierce School of Law at the University of New Hampshire. In this interview with Bar & Bench, she shares some thoughts on the value of a US LLM for an Indian law graduate, why Franklin Pierce is considered one of the best IP law schools in the world, and much more.
Bar & Bench: Tell us about your journey from law student to Dean of Franklin Pierce School of Law at the University of New Hampshire?
Megan Carpenter: When I was in law school, I studied international law and human rights. I practiced intellectual property (IP) and technology law at a top global firm, and went on to build IP programs at law schools across the United States, often with a focus on entrepreneurship and innovation for under-served communities around the world.
After more than 20 years in higher education, leading a law school whose mission it is to launch the IP leaders of tomorrow is a joy for me. I have a collaborative leadership style and a student-centered approach. I believe that learning best takes place at the intersection of practice and theory—one must learn to think like a lawyer, but one must also learn the skills of being a lawyer. This is a defining characteristic of UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, and something that sets us apart from other schools.
Bar & Bench: Why did you choose Academia and what are your interests in law?
Megan Carpenter: I taught in higher education before I went to law school, and have always loved to teach. When I was in law school, I had excellent mentors and dreamed of someday joining them to educate future lawyers. For me, there is nothing more satisfying than teaching students who will lead the next generation.
Intellectual property is fascinating to me because it is the legal framework surrounding human creativity. IP and technology law are at the forefront of some of the most important legal issues facing the world today. IP drives innovation, and lawyers are essential to this process. Our graduates at UNH Franklin Pierce drive the technologies that will transform our world, from artificial intelligence to life-saving medical advancements. Our graduates also help strategize the development and dissemination of the fruits of creativity, like art and music. This is something I am incredibly proud of.
Bar & Bench: What factors should LLM applicants consider when choosing a law school?
Megan Carpenter: LLM programs help lawyers stand out in their chosen field of law. The degree signals to employers that this person has a depth of knowledge that only comes through intense study. I recommend LLM applicants determine what they want to specialize in, then apply to programs that match their interests.
For instance, I talk to a great deal of LLM applicants interested in IP, business, and technology law. At Franklin Pierce, we have been in the top ten for IP law since the rankings began nearly 30 years ago, and we’re currently ranked #5.
It doesn’t matter where you go – Beijing, Buenos Aires, Delhi, Seoul – people recognize the Franklin Pierce name as the gold standard for excellence in IP. That name recognition gives our graduates a boost in their job search.
But, of course, there’s more to a program than name recognition. Students need the skills to advance their career. We keep our class sizes small so that faculty have the time and resources to help each student succeed. Our students participate in legal clinics where they represent clients while they are in school. And we provide individual support for students who want to take the bar exam.
Finally, it’s important to consider the costs of attending an LLM program. At Franklin Pierce, we’re very conscious of that, so we work hard to keep tuition affordable and we offer scholarships to highly qualified applicants.
In sum, pick a school that supports your interests, explore how you’ll fit into the school’s community, and keep an eye on the financial cost to attend.
Bar & Bench: What do you look for in an LLM applicant? What information should they convey in their personal statement?
Megan Carpenter: There isn’t a one-size-fits-all ideal applicant. Our students come from all over the globe and bring with them a wide variety of professional backgrounds.
During the application review, we look at an individual’s academic record, and we carefully consider their professional experience as well as their area of legal interest. To that end, the personal statement is an opportunity for applicants to explain their goals and how an LLM will help them on their professional journey.
The personal statement is not a place to simply list out what is on your resume/CV. You submit those documents in a separate part of your application, so repeating them cuts down on your chance to impress us with the breadth of your potential. Instead, we want to learn more about the next steps in your career and how our LLM program fits into those plans. Think creatively about your future so that we can help you achieve your goals!
Bar & Bench: What are the benefits of an LLM for an international student?
Megan Carpenter: The LLM degree is valuable for international students – it bolsters their professional credentials, provides an intensive study in US legal doctrine, and signifies their expertise in a specialized field of law. Most American lawyers who choose LLM programs do so to showcase their dedication to a niche practice area.
In addition, some LLM students earn an LLM in order to sit for the bar exam and be qualified to practice law in the US. Our program provides individual support and tutoring for students interested in taking the bar exam in states that allow it. This credential can be valuable even if international students aren’t interested in practicing law in the US.
Bar & Bench: What are some of the benefits Franklin Pierce affords its LLM students?
Megan Carpenter: What sets Franklin Pierce apart is the strength of our community, including our alumni network. We’re connected to each other from enrollment to graduation and beyond. Our small class sizes ensure LLM students have access to their professors, can take classes with JD students, and get to know their colleagues. Those bonds create an exceptional academic experience and strong social and professional networks that thrive well beyond graduation. Our alumni lead IP at some of the world’s top companies, like Microsoft, Bayer, Samsung, and LG, and at some of the top law firms in the world.
For academic programming, our Top 10 LLM in Intellectual Property offers one of the most comprehensive lists of IP courses in the United States. We also have the largest full-time faculty in the field of IP, and the largest academic IP library in the Western Hemisphere.
Franklin Pierce LLM students experience the same level of support we offer JD students through our Academic Success Program, including a dedicated faculty member who supports their preparation for the bar exam and offers them an opportunity to take a preliminary bar exam.
When LLM students graduate, they enter the job market with the strength of our brand on their resumes, which affords them international recognition and a global alumni network of IP leaders. That’s the secret – we provide a strong academic environment, a collaborative community, and a world-class alumni network, allowing our LLM graduates to launch careers around the globe.
Bar & Bench: What is your sense of the employment options available to LLM graduates in the U.S.?
Megan Carpenter: There is a lot of opportunity in the United States for specialists in intellectual property and technology law. Many LLM students at Franklin Pierce hope to gain work experience in the United States after they complete their degree, and it’s possible for them to do so after they graduate.
We connect current students with a strong and dedicated alumni base, who are happy to act as mentors. They help students learn more about working in the U.S. and offer tips for navigating the job search process. Additionally, our Immigration Advisor supports students who want to pursue Optional Practical Training (OPT) through the OPT application process. Finally, we are adding to our Career Services staff to enhance individualized support for LLM students.
In closing, we welcome applicants from India and across the world to our LLM programs here in the United States. I can’t wait to meet you and help you along your path to success.