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Finding new J.D.s with the skills needed to practice intellectual property law hasn’t come easy for Connecticut firms, especially with larger, out-of-state competitors hungry to gobble up any prized candidates that come along. But an intellectual property certification program officially being launched by the University of Connecticut School of Law this fall is expected to draw more students with strong technology backgrounds to the state, and Connecticut firms will be given first crack at recruiting them. Under the initiative, the 15 incoming first-year law students accepted into the program this year must accumulate a minimum of 15 of the 86 credits required to graduate completing IP-related course work. They also will be assured summer associate positions at firms participating in the program and will visit those firms throughout the school year to attend in-house training seminars that the firms give to their own junior IP lawyers. “It’s a great recruiting tool from a firm standpoint,” said Wendi J. Kemp, hiring partner at Stamford, Conn.-based Cummings & Lockwood. “It really gives the parties the chance to build [relationships], if there’s something there to build.” CRITICAL MASS UConn Associate Professor Steven Wilf, one of the faculty members responsible for devising the program, said the school is looking to form strategic partnerships with corporate legal departments in addition to C&L and other Connecticut law firms with large IP practices. In-house law departments, according to Wilf, have been hit as hard or harder than law firms by the shortage of qualified applicants to meet their exploding intellectual property law needs. UConn received more than 30 applications for the program’s 15 seats. Wilf, however, said he was not surprised by the demand, given the attention paid to Napster’s battle with the recording industry and other recent copyright, patent and trademark disputes. The idea for the certification program came together roughly two years ago when Wilf and Associate Professor Paul Schiff Berman, who teaches cyberspace and copyright law, joined a faculty that already included Lewis Kurlantzick and Willajeanne F. McLean. Copyright law is Kurlantzick’s expertise, while McLean is a well-known scholar in the fields of trademarks and international property issues involving the European Union. Given that there are only 25 professors on its faculty, having four of them dedicated to IP law distinguishes UConn from other law schools its size, Wilf said. AHEAD OF THE CURVE Michael A. Cantor, an adjunct professor at UConn and name partner at the Windsor-based IP boutique Cantor Colburn, said he expects the program to attract ex-technology professionals who might otherwise earn their law degrees at schools such as the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. The initiative will not only boost UConn’s reputation, “it will provide more good, viable candidates for [local] IP firms,” Cantor maintained. “Not everyone with a science background wants to be an intellectual property lawyer” after attaining their J.D., Kemp said. The program, she added, enables students to “self select” their specialty upon entering law school, thus saving firms the time and effort of recruiting students for IP jobs only for them to chose to go into other fields. “UConn,” she lauded, “is ahead of the curve in targeting [IP law] as a booming area.” As currently conceived, students enrolled in the certification program will have an open invitation to attend IP training sessions that participating firms offer to their own associates. Cummings & Lockwood, for one, is planning to conduct more of its IP seminars out of its Hartford, Conn., office, as a convenience to the students, Kemp said. The firm also expects to offer two internships to members in the group — one in patent law and the other in trademark law — as well as hire some of the students as part-time law clerks, to the extent it has an overflow of work, according to Kemp. The 15 students also will be eligible to participate in UConn’s recently launched first-year “Honors Program,” under which top students receive guaranteed summer associate positions at local firms upon enrolling at the law school. If there is any downside, Kemp said, it is that the program is likely to draw the attention of more out-of-state firms. “Students who come to the school may have no interest in practicing � in Connecticut,” she warned. They, however, will not leave the state without first learning all that Cummings & Lockwood has to offer, she added.

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