Karen Beckman of Mitchell Hamline School of Law

Karen Beckman
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“When I started my Ph.D. here in Minnesota, the more research I did, the more I fell out of love with research.”

For many years, Karen Beckman assumed she was going to have a career in science. She received a Bachelor of Science in chemistry from North Dakota State University in 2005, a master’s degree in medicinal chemistry from the University of Kansas in 2008, and came to the University of Minnesota to pursue a doctorate in organic chemistry. Her intention, or so she told herself, was to then embark on a career as a pharmaceutical researcher. There was just one problem: “When I started my Ph.D. here in Minnesota, the more research I did, the more I fell out of love with research.”

Beckman did finish her doctorate in 2014, but she began to look at career alternatives and to conduct some self-assessment.

“I realized that, for my personality, being around people and conversing with people is something that I enjoy doing,” she recalls. “I also realized that what I enjoyed in grad school was reading papers about other people’s research instead of doing the research myself.”

And then she remembered being intrigued by her first exposure to patent law back at the University of Kansas, where her adviser had started her own company based on her own patents. The more she looked at the possibility of switching to a career in patent law, the more intriguing it became. Knowing of Mitchell Hamline’s Intellectual Property Institute and the reputation of its IP curriculum, Beckman enrolled there and – fast forward to today – will be launching her career this fall in the Minneapolis-based IP boutique law firm Merchant & Gould.

Beckman has been intensely focused on her new career goal from the beginning of her first year in law school, when she became the 1L representative to SIPLA, the Student Intellectual Property Law Association. As a 2L, she was SIPLA’s career coordinator, and as a 3L she is the group’s president.

Her association with Merchant & Gould began the summer after her first year, when she had an internship there. The firm agreed to let her work part-time through the remainder of law school, and by the beginning of her third year the firm made her an offer to join as a full-time lawyer in September 2017 after she receives her Juris Doctor

At Mitchell Hamline, Beckman has gained valuable practical experience through her participation in crafting three amicus briefs to the U.S. Supreme Court with professor Carl Moy. At Merchant & Gould, Beckman has assisted lawyers working on cases involving generic drugs.

“When you want to bring a generic onto the market, you don’t have to do the extensive FDA studies that are needed to bring a new drug onto the market,” she explains. “You just have to prove safety and effectiveness.”

When Beckman joins the firm as a lawyer this fall, she expects to be working mostly with the firm’s patent litigation group. As a first-year associate, she expects to be doing a lot of research but hopes to get courtroom experience as soon as possible in cases that involve enforcement of patents or defenses of patents in infringement actions. Dick Dahl

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