Diana Portna, LL.M. '03

A native of Kyiv, Ukraine, Diana Portna, LLM ’03, is a patent and trademark attorney and director of operations with D&L IP Group, which has offices in Ukraine and Eurasia. As a child, she learned about the legal profession from watching her mother practice patent law at a private firm. A desire to assist her own Ukrainian clients more directly with legal issues in the United States prompted Portna to consider sitting for the New York bar exam. After meeting with Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions and International Outreach  Sarah Dorner at the International Trademark Association (INTA) annual meeting last year, Portna was connected to Kevin Frost, director of the Academic Success Program at UNH Franklin Pierce. With guidance regarding her eligibility and the process for taking the bar, Portna successfully passed the exam in February 2023. She spoke with Jana Brown, a contributing writer for UNH Franklin Pierce. 

Why did you want to come to the U.S. for your LLM? 

In 2001, our office received a brochure from Franklin Pierce, which was as good as receiving a brochure from space because the U.S. seemed so far away and foreign. At that time, I was graduating from my master’s in IP Law in Ukraine and was hired at once by Baker and MacKenzie’s Kyiv office to be a paralegal in their IP practice. Despite the fact that I was about to be admitted as a patent attorney and had a full-fledged law degree from the department of Law at Kyiv National Economic University, they would only promote paralegals to associates if one would get an LLM in the U.S. Those two facts collided. 

How did your time at UNH Franklin Pierce help your career? 

Tremendously. It was always a foot in the door. I went back to private practice after earning my LLM, but whenever I felt like stepping out into big law, I would always be selected due to my solid ABA-accredited school credentials. It also created an incredible network of former classmates who exchanged work. 

What made you want to take the New York bar exam? 

My Ukrainian colleagues and clients started to request more U.S. trademark registration services to the point that it became a niche practice for us. We partnered with a U.S. attorney, but at some point I felt it was my cue to take the bar exam. That was also when I met Sarah Dorner at INTA and she connected me with Kevin, the director of the Academic Success Program, who guided me through the admission process for foreign students. 

What advice do you have for other Ukrainian students when it comes to pursuing law degrees? 

I truly believe to be a well-rounded attorney you need international experience and a degree which gives you credibility and a much larger frame of reference for quality services, especially in IP because it is particularly global. 

Is there anything you want to share about what is happening in Ukraine right now, and how your education and legal expertise have been assets to you? 

Ukraine, despite the great human suffering at the moment, rose up to be a nation to look up to — resilient, resourceful, brimming with national pride and creativity. Many local entrepreneurs whose local business suffered due to martial laws, power outages, and human resource outstream pivoted to international markets and turned to the Ukrainians abroad to help them establish their presence while still supporting the economy of Ukraine by maintaining manufacturing facilities in Ukraine. I was honored to help them get oriented and establish their legal presence and foundation for their operations in the U.S. marketplace. Furthermore, the National Association of Patent Attorneys of Ukraine (NAPA) is very vocal in sending to the global community a message about the state of affairs in Ukraine, especially in terms of patent and trademark prosecution, which is critical to maintain the IP system in Ukraine. NAPA also spearheads fundraising efforts, helping patent attorneys in crisis with humanitarian needs. Some of our colleagues are actually fighting on the front lines and the Association is fundraising to get them protective gear.  

Any closing thoughts? 

I am incredibly grateful for that brochure I got in the mail 20 years ago, for solid legal education that allowed me 20 years later to pass an incredibly difficult bar exam on one attempt, and for the lifelong friendships and institutional support I received from UNH Franklin Pierce. 


Have you ever considered applying for a Master's degree in Law in the US? Would you like to learn more about studying Law in the United States and the requirements set for international students applying for LL.M? If you would like to take your Law degree to the next level at a U.S. university, join our webinar with guest speakers Sarah Dorner, Assistant Dean for Graduate Admissions at Franklin Pierce School of Law at the University of New Hampshire, Hannah Logan, Assistant Director at Minnesota Law and Ashley Sim, Associate Director of Admissions, at USC Gould School of Law. They will provide an overview of LL.M. programs in the U.S., seeking funding, and the application process for those programs.

The presentation will be conducted in English. To join the presentation online, please register in advance at the following link: https://forms.gle/N9997yuzRiCiDEt89 

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