After they earned degrees at UNH Law (then known as Franklin Pierce Law Center), Aaron Silverstein ’04 JD, MIP and Matt Saunders ’92, ’05 JD, opened a small law practice on Massachusetts’ North Shore. Referrals from intellectual property attorneys and contract work kept them relatively busy but the two partners knew their start-up needed to grow. “Honestly, the one thing that kept going through my mind was what Mary Sheffer said to us,” Silverstein recalls. “She said, ‘Just hit three years. If you can make it to the three-year mark, you’re going to be fine.’” Those words of encouragement from the then assistant dean of career services paid off. A dozen years later, the boutique law firm Saunders Silverstein LLP, which specializes in copyright and trademark law, has a client list that spans the globe.
They’ve expanded office space from one to two floors in the old Henschel factory in Amesbury, which otherwise is occupied by artist studios. Three associates — Michael Rizzo ’04 JD, Becky Lessard ’13 JD and Seth Walters ’16 JD — are UNH Law graduates who did their legal residencies at Saunders Silverstein. “Everyone we hire is from UNH Law,” says Saunders. And why not? The law school has been ranked for 27 consecutive years among the top 10 IP Law programs in the country by US News and World Report, and this year was listed 85th among top law schools overall.
In honor of their own legal education, exposure to an international student community, faculty mentors like Susan Richey, and the students and alumni who have worked with them since, the partners have made a $25,000 gift to UNH Law. The Saunders and Silverstein Scholarship provides support for students studying trademark and copyright law, and the gift could not come at a better time for the law school.
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“Our alumni continue to be our most important ambassadors of our spirit and impact around the world,” says Megan Carpenter, dean of UNH Law. “At an extremely challenging time for all law schools, relationships like these are more cherished than ever. Partnerships like this will make it possible for us to deliver the same transformative experience Matt and Aaron had at UNH Law to future generations.”
And it was Carpenter’s arrival last year that sealed the deal. The two law partners say UNH could not have validated the importance of intellectual property law more strongly than by appointing her. “We had been talking about a gift like this for a few years,” says Silverstein. “But what pushed us to actually do it was meeting Dean Carpenter. Under her leadership, it means UNH Law will grow even more as an IP law powerhouse.”
Saunders grew up in Concord and earned an undergraduate degree in communication from UNH. His father, Arpiar Saunders, was dean of academic affairs and taught constitutional law at Franklin Pierce. Silverstein grew up in Peterborough and studied creative writing at Emerson College. He worked at various jobs around the country before he began to seriously explore law school options.
The two quickly became friends at UNH Law and knew they one day would open a firm together. Saunders says he was lucky that his family had the means to pay for his legal education. Silverstein, on the other hand, relied on financial aid to pay for law school. “I know what it feels like to worry about that,” he says, “so if we can make it a little easier for someone else, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Originally published in IMPACT Spring 2018