Professor Ashlynn Lembree on the Importance of an LLM in Intellectual Property


Monday, October 12, 2020

Ashlyn Lembree

Interview with Professor Ashlyn Lembree, Director of the Intellectual Property and Transaction Clinic

  1. What do you think is the value of an LL.M. from the point of view of an international student? 

The LL.M. degree provides a year of law courses specific to U.S. law as well as internationally comparative coverage, enabling the LL.M. graduate to counsel clients in the global economy far more effectively and with better insight into the global picture.  The LL.M. at a U.S. institution provides a surrogate validation concerning knowledge of U.S. law and customs and English language competence.  The LL.M. degree affords an opportunity to be part of a legal community in the U.S.

Course offerings at UNH Franklin Pierce allow LL.M. students to study a wide range of topics, from cornerstone courses in patents, trademarks, and copyrights to licensing classes and valuation methods for the business-minded lawyer, to in-depth prosecution classes in all subject areas for the attorneys engaged in prosecution work, to experiential classes and legal residencies for practice on live cases, and much more.

Some of our LL.M. students choose their course of study to enable them to sit for the New York bar exam, which is a common jurisdiction of choice for students seeking to attain a U.S. law license without the need for a 3-year J.D. from a U.S. institution (most U.S. states require a J.D. degree to sit for the bar exam). 

This can open many doors, because the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) now requires non-U.S. parties before them in trademark matters to have a U.S.-state-licensed attorney; without a U.S. attorney, the non-U.S. party’s trademark application or opposition or cancellation proceeding will be terminated against them.

  1. In your experience, what does the international LL.M. candidate most value about their time at UNH Franklin Pierce? 

The overwhelming impression I get from the international LL.M. students as to their favorite aspect of being here is the community of people.  The international graduate students who come are very close-knit, regardless of the country they come from.  The international students also blend well with our JD students, but the graduate student group is especially tight in that they experience many shared issues that JD students may not, such as visa requirements, family being far away, and LL.M. required coursework.  I often hear my LL.M. students discussing meals they share at each other’s homes as they take turns cooking and going on outings in the city of Concord.

  1. Can you tell us about the experiential learning opportunities available to international LL.M. students at UNH?

LL.M. (and Master’s in IP) students are eligible to enroll in and participate in the clinic I direct, the Intellectual Property & Transaction Clinic.  The graduate students have the same opportunity for spots in the clinic as the JD students, with 24 seats open per year.  Other clinics at our law school accept LL.M. students, such as the Immigration Clinic and the International Technology Transfer Institute.

  1. Could you tell us a bit more about your Intellectual Property and Transaction Clinic and what this course entails?

In the Intellectual Property & Transaction Clinic, students work under my supervision on real-client cases involving intellectual property matters, including trademark and copyright registration, counseling, contract drafting, business formation, some patent matters, proceedings before the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) of the USPTO, and occasionally litigation in federal district court. 

IP Clinic students will conduct interviews, draft documents, advise clients, and prepare filings.  Clinic clients include authors, artists, musicians, publishers, small businesses, and non-profit organizations. 

The Clinic participates in a USPTO Law School Clinical Program allowing students to represent clients and appear in trademark applications and proceedings at the TTAB.  The USPTO Clinical Program also involves an annual visit to the USPTO in the spring and biennial visits to UNH Law by USPTO staff attorneys.  For international LL.M. students who do not get admitted to a bar in the U.S., this Clinic may be their only opportunity to directly represent a party before the USPTO.

For non-U.S. citizens, internships and employment at the USPTO is typically not permitted, so again the Clinic may be one of the only opportunities to work with USPTO matters and personnel.  We also have a weekly seminar-structure class to discuss lawyering methods, strategies, ethics, and group discussions of our cases.  We work as a law firm team, and students really like working in the clinic.

  1. What kind of support is offered to students who want to stay in the US for Optional Practical Training (OPT) after completing their LL.M. degree?

The law school works with a dedicated Immigration Advisor from the university’s Office of International Students and Scholars. The Advisor guides students through the OPT application process, ensuring compliance with all US rules and regulations. Our Director of Graduate Programs Legal Skills works hard to incorporate networking opportunities into the curriculum for LL.M. students.

In addition to inviting alumni as guest speakers, last spring she also brought a published author to class to discuss networking and getting hired in the US.  In 2020, 75% of our LL.M. graduates remained in the U.S. for OPT and all found jobs within a few months of graduation.

  1. What is your reading of the US legal market when it comes to recruiting the international LL.M. graduate? 

Our alumni network includes several firms in the U.S. with an interest in bilingual students with knowledge of the U.S. system as well as their JD-equivalent country, as these hiring prospects can provide significant support to the global picture.

 UNH Law strives to provide networking opportunities to our LL.M. students, and our career services office gives students access to postings that LL.M. students may be qualified for and can apply to.

In addition, a faculty member in our Academic Success Program supports LL.M. students with preparing their resume/CV and cover letters.  I think our 100% OPT employment success rate amid a pandemic that has severely impacted the global economy and U.S. job market is a clear indication that the U.S. legal market sees the international LL.M. graduate as desirable and value added.

  1. Last question, how can an international LL.M. candidate make the most of the 9-month programme? 

I would share the following recommendations:

  • Get to know your fellow students.  These students from other countries will be your foreign associates when you need an attorney in another country or in another discipline. 
  • Immerse yourself in the culture and language.  U.S. attorneys greatly appreciate our foreign associates understanding our legal system, our unwritten practices and English fluency. It is easier for the U.S. attorney to understand the foreign attorney’s message when the foreign attorney can compare and contrast to the American system and do so well.
  • Travel during your school breaks.  All the students who have planned trips during their breaks come back happy.
  • Share your knowledge and experience from your home country, both in the law and culturally.  Speaking as a professor, I find it fascinating to hear about techniques, customs, laws, and new legislation in other countries and often invite my international students to share.  The students’ pride is so apparent when they present that I know this is an enriching event all around.
  • Join a student group or several.  The Diversity Coalition hosts Chinese New Year and Diwali celebrations every year, which are fun and delicious.  The Outdoor Club hosts group hikes, ski trips, and other outdoor activities.  A wide variety of other student groups can grow a student’s interest in constitutional law, licensing, patents, sports law, and entertainment law, among other topics.  Last year, two LL.M. students served on the Student Bar Association and another was the first LL.M. editor of IDEA, the Law Review of the Franklin Pierce Center for Intellectual Property.
  • Become acquainted with professors in your field of interest.  We are friendly and excited to get to know you!
  • Don’t forget to study and have fun!

For more information about the LL.M. programs at the University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law, visit: https://law.unh.edu/admissions/graduate-admissions. Or, contact the Admissions Office at admissions@law.unh.edu or on WhatsApp at +1-603-513-5300.