We’re pleased to bring to you this post by UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, sharing a glimpse of the educational and professional journey of its dean Megan Carpenter and what she views as the future of UNH Franklin Pierce’s law programs.
Seeing It Through
Dean Megan Carpenter has relished the chance to build on UNH Franklin Pierce’s innovative programs in IP law.
Early in her career working for a big law firm, Megan Carpenter found herself representing the intellectual property rights of start-ups, international multimedia corporations, and even professional wrestlers.
“I was spending the majority of my waking hours every day helping these organizations,” Carpenter, the dean of UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, told A.J. Kierstead on the law school’s podcast, The Legal Impact. Her work made her think about the allocation of IP rights throughout various communities around the world. She began to think “big picture” about the human rights implications of IP law.
To strengthen her understanding of those implications, Carpenter decided to pursue her LL.M. in international human rights at the National University of Ireland. She studied at a human rights center there, exploring the intersection of intellectual property and human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as well as the UN International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, provide that individuals should have claim to the moral and material interests of their own creations.
“I remember the first paper…I wrote [in Ireland] about the right to intellectual property. When I got my grade, I did okay, not so well,” Carpenter recalled. “I went to talk to the teacher about it, and she said, ‘Your paper was really good, but the problem is, that’s not a very important right.’ I have always thought back to that because it was the early 2000s, before we recognized that we live entirely in an intellectual property and content knowledge economy around the world. The irony of that strikes me now.”
Before she became the dean at UNH Franklin Pierce, Carpenter’s personal journey took her from earning a B.A. and M.A. in foreign languages (Spanish) at West Virginia University (near where she grew up) to her first stint in education. She taught Spanish, earned her JD, and contemplated a career that always seemed to be leading her back toward academia. As a high school student at The Madeira School in McLean, Va., Carpenter participated in a work program that introduced her to experiential education. Carpenter continued on that path as an undergraduate by teaching adult, mostly immigrant, ESL students, and was inspired by their work ethic and desire to create better lives for themselves.
Carpenter’s affinity for intellectual property law began to evolve during her time at Kirkpatrick & Lockhart in Pittsburgh. In working with the firm’s tech, multimedia, and entertainment law clients, Carpenter began to realize that many of a company’s assets were based in intellectual property. She found the questions that arose with regard to branding and trademarks to be fascinating – and wanted to learn more. Her willingness to consider new areas of the law have been hallmarks of Carpenter’s career ever since.
“I always try to tell students now that you should go into something with intention,” she said. “You feel like you have an idea of what your passion is, and you should absolutely pursue that, but don’t hesitate to keep yourself open to those random things that happen, that send you down a different path you may not have expected.”
Carpenter returned to academia in West Virginia, where she taught intellectual property at the College of Law. She subsequently founded IP programs at Texas Wesleyan and Texas A&M. As her administrative responsibilities grew at Texas A&M, Carpenter began to think about her next career opportunity. She had long considered UNH Franklin Pierce as the benchmark for IP law, and jumped at the chance to continue her work in New Hampshire.
“As I built programs at different schools, I thought, ‘What is that magic thing that school has up in New Hampshire,” she said. “They produce top-quality grads who always keep the school as part of their identity. The opportunity to keep doing administrative work that I loved, in a greater sense, at a school that for me had always been the gold standard for legal education was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”
In her tenure at UNH, Carpenter has overseen the founding of the innovative Hybrid JD Program, which increases access for students wishing to pursue a law degree, no matter where they are in their life or career. Especially in a post-pandemic world, she hopes the program will become a model for distance learning in legal education, including increased opportunities for international students to earn a law degree from a top American university. Carpenter also is looking to expand on programs that highlight experiential learning opportunities, similar to the 2020 Silicon Valley Experience.
“Being a dean, in so many ways through shared governance, [enables me to] help people accomplish their goals,” she said. “And that is something that is incredibly satisfying to me. The students are developing their legal networks and connections in a kind of experiential, on-the-ground way and relating that back to the classroom. I think legal education has an opportunity to change right now. And I look forward to being here at the law school to see that through.”
UNH Franklin Pierce is currently accepting applications for its Intellectual Property and Commerce and Technology LL.M., master’s, and certificate programs. For more information on the degrees offered and how to apply, please visit the law school’s website, email [email protected], or contact +1-603-513-5300 by phone or WhatsApp.