The #Powerhouse Alum: Mahua Roy Chowdhury, LLM ‘01 University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law
The #Powerhouse Alum: Mahua Roy Chowdhury, LLM ‘01 University of New Hampshire Franklin Pierce School of Law)
The UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law has been attracting Indian Intellectual Property (IP) law scholars and practitioners for several decades now. Known to be one of the best law schools in the world for intellectual property, it is no wonder that UNH Franklin Pierce graduates have gone on to great success in their professional careers.
The #Powerhouse Alum series aims to highlight a few of these Indian alumni from UNH Franklin Pierce.
“Once you graduate from UNH Franklin Pierce, you are ready to go”, she opines, “you don’t need any senior to handhold you.”
Mahua Roy Chowdhury should know.
After graduating with an LLM from UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law more than two decades ago, Mahua now helms a law firm whose headquarter is in the financial capital of the country, Mumbai.
Hers is a story of grit and determination, in which the UNH Franklin Pierce LLM plays an important role.
A 1996 law graduate from Campus Law Centre in Delhi, Mahua did not come from a family of lawyers. She built her practice bit by bit, spending her first year in a public prosecutor’s office. The caseload was immense, which came with its own rewards, “We got to appear in 20 matters a day) but the pay was poor, roughly two hundred and fifty rupees a month.”
In those early days, Mahua would take on matters that most other lawyers had given up on, relishing the fight and the experience which came with such cases. Slowly, she began briefing counsel like Dr. AM Singhvi and Dr. Surat Singh in several high-profile matters.
It was during this phase when the desire to pursue an LLM took shape.
Encouraged by her husband (who had studied in Australia) and several seniors, Mahua decided to pursue an LLM in Intellectual Property. Once this decision was made, the choice of UNH Franklin Pierce was a natural next step after being recommended by Dr. Nomita Aggarwal who served as Dean of Campus Law Centre at the time. Globally recognised for its IP expertise, UNH Franklin Pierce continues to build a stellar reputation in the field of intellectual property.
Again, difficulties came in the way. Even with a generous scholarship, Mahua simply did not have the funds to pay for the LLM. So, Mahua and her husband decided to sell one of their most precious assets – their house.
There were other complications along the way; health conditions meant that Mahua could only reach UNH Franklin Pierce a day before the course started. “My doctors were against my travelling [to the US] but I was adamant. I had to take steroids so that I could stand.”
It was worth the pain.
“My entire study and practice of law was not comparable to that one-year LLM,” says Mahua, “the LLM was just so intense.”
Spending all her waking hours in the law school library (“They would kick us out at midnight”), Mahua relished the academic challenges that came along the way. Perhaps one of the most significant challenges were the manners in which the examinations were conducted, and what students were tested on.
“Unless you have a grasp of the fundamentals [of the law] and their application, you cannot answer them. You needed to understand the concepts.”
There were other learnings too, such as learning how to write.
“We Indians think we know how to write and speak English. But we were wrong. Each sentence that you write had to be supported by case law.”
As the LLM year came to an end, Mahua received an offer from a law firm based out of Washington DC. It was an offer she gladly accepted.
And then 9/11 happened.
“My job offer was withdrawn. It was a scary scenario”, she remembers, “My family asked me to come back.”
The day she returned to India was the day she got another offer from a law firm in New Hampshire. She had to decline since she did not have the resources to fly back to the US.
The challenge of building a legal practice began once again. But this time she was confident of building a career in IP law.
It was not easy.
Back then, Indian law firms were not really working on cutting-edge IP work. Even if she did manage an interview, the questions would often be sexist. “These men were asking me, ‘What if you get pregnant tomorrow? What will you do?”
Once an interviewer asked her about her five-year plan. “I said I wanted to became Partner. He laughed.” Five years later, she founded her own law firm.
Initially, she worked with engineering and IT companies.
“I showed the head honchos at these companies IP management, the significance of IP monetisation and effect on balance sheets this is what I had studied at UNH Franklin Pierce.”
Once again, bit by bit, things began looking up, until it came to a point where Mahua could now think about giving back to UNH Franklin Pierce. Which is how the ROYZZ & Co scholarship exclusively for international students pursuing an LLM or master’s in Intellectual Property, came about.
“In 2018, I spoke with the Dean [of UNH Franklin Pierce] about setting up a scholarship. I am the one who struggled financially, so if I can help, why not?”
Since then, four LLM in Intellectual Property students have benefited from an additional $5,000 scholarship to support their legal studies at UNH Franklin Pierce. Applications for the 2024-2025 scholarship will open on September 1.