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Rinat Shangeeta ’15: National Recognition for IP Law, Mentoring Commitments

It was as a 17-year-old immigrant from Bangladesh that Rinat Shangeeta ’15 first experienced the impact that a dedicated mentor can have. A few years later, while working on web application development projects for Merrill Lynch in her first job after graduating from Rutgers University, Shangeeta became fascinated by the laws that regulate application development. 

At Rutgers School of Law–Newark, she is putting into action her passion for both mentoring and supporting innovation through the law. For her efforts, Shangeeta has found spring 2014 to be a very gratifying semester.

IPLS Mentoring Program reception
Rinat Shangeeta ’15 (front row, left), Clinical Professor John Kettle (back row, left), and Heather Baker Samuylov ’15 (front row, right), who is 2013-2014 IPLS mentoring chair, are shown with some of the mentors at the IPLS inaugural mentoring reception and dinner. Front row are: Michael J. Vincenti ’09 of Stephens & Baugh, LLC and Nicole Lai ’08 of Sidley Austin, LLP. Back row are: Albert Boardman of Paterson & Sheridan, LLP; Flann Lippincott ’10 of Lippincott Burnett LLP, and Robert G. Shepherd ’78 of Porzio, Bromberg & Newman P.C.

As president of the Intellectual Property Law Society (IPLS), she undertook several initiatives, including the development of its new Mentoring Program. The program had a ceremonial launch at a February reception that brought together 13 IP law students with their volunteer mentors recruited from law firms and top entertainment industry companies. 

In March her commitment and dedication to the law school and the practice of law were recognized by the New Jersey Women Lawyers Association, which awarded her a scholarship. NJWLA stated that Shangeeta’s educational achievement, recommendations, personal accomplishments, and award-winning essay made her “an exceptional choice” for its scholarship award. 

Later in the month she was announced as the winner of the 2014 Mark T. Banner Scholarship given to one recipient each year by the Richard Linn American Inn of Court. The national scholarship reflects the Court’s commitment to fostering the development of IP lawyers of high ethics, civility and professionalism, and especially those from diverse backgrounds. 

In its award letter, the scholarship committee, which includes the Hon. Richard Linn, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, told Shangeeta that it was “particularly impressed with your academic credentials, your diverse background and set of experiences, your commitment to public service and your strong desire to practice intellectual property law.”

Of the honors she says: “As law students and busy professionals, it is hard for us to devote any time to extracurricular activities and we end up sacrificing our passions. For me, getting recognized partly for some of that work confirms it is indeed valued and makes me more confident and motivated to stay committed to my passion. I am grateful to Nicky Fornarotto, Professor Kettle and Dean Rothman for their support and encouragement to apply for these scholarships.”

National recognition would not have seemed possible to the teenager who arrived with her family in the United States.  “I felt like an ‘alien” in every sense of the word in my small-town Virginia high school,” she says. Her first ESL teacher, who provided tremendous support and encouragement as she worked towards assimilation, made her realize the value of mentoring. Urged to focus on her strengths, Shangeeta found hers in math and moved quickly from 10th-grade algebra to college-level calculus.

Shangeeta graduated from Rutgers University with highest honors in electrical and computer engineering. Technology had been an interest since, for an eighth-grade science fair, she used simple circuitry concepts to create a mobile burglary alarm — intended to fight the common phenomenon of pickpocketing in Bangladesh — from ordinary household materials. “While my ‘invention’ never fully realized its potential, it sparked my interest in engineering and entrepreneurship,” she says.

At Rutgers University–New Brunswick, Shangeeta dedicated significant time to mentoring international students who, as she had been, were new to the country, and female classmates, who comprised only about 10 percent of students in the electrical and computer engineering program. As president of the Rutgers International Student Association, she fostered the sharing of diverse experiences on campus. 

As a programmer, I could create new technologies, but as a patent lawyer, I can lead widespread institutional change to ensure that all inventors are incentivized to take the risks and spend the hours necessary to develop products that will positively reshape our lives.

Among Shangeeta’s undergraduate accomplishments was an internship at Microsoft during the summer after her junior year. Rutgers had not had a student selected for one of the coveted spots for several years before that.

At Merrill Lynch, she mentored new hires and summer interns. The company recognized her strong commitment to diversity and community service with a special award given to less than one percent of staff worldwide. She also was a volunteer mentor at a local elementary school.

While the Microsoft internship reinforced Shangeeta’s admiration for the creativity of technological innovators, the Merrill Lynch technology leadership development program sparked her curiosity about the laws that regulate application development on the technological frontier. “My interest in patent law was deepening as a result of my practical experience,” she explains.

Shangeeta came to realize that she wanted not only to develop new technologies but also to participate in their design and protection. “As a programmer,” she explains, “I could create new technologies, but as a patent lawyer, I can lead widespread institutional change to ensure that all inventors are incentivized to take the risks and spend the hours necessary to develop products that will positively reshape our lives.” After two years at Educational Testing Service, at which she gained skills at bridging the gap between technical and non-technical worlds, Shangeeta decided to leave an established career as an engineer and pursue a new career in intellectual property law.

At Rutgers School of Law–Newark she is a staff member of the Rutgers Law Review and a recipient of the Tausner Memorial Prize, awarded for demonstrating a significant commitment both to integrating a scientific, engineering or technical background with a legal career and to public service. She has joined both the New York and New Jersey Intellectual Property Law Association and is a member of the IP Law Section of the New Jersey State Bar Association. 

Her favorite law school classes? “Professor Kettle’s Copyright and Trademark course and Professor Safrin’s Patent Law course were both extremely practical, energetic and fun,” she reports, “reaffirming my interest in IP law. I also greatly enjoyed having the opportunity to lead a group of very responsible IPLS officers and getting enthusiastic support from the faculty and students for every IPLS activity. I really value the collegial atmosphere at this law school,” she adds.

Last summer Shangeeta served as a law clerk in the Philadelphia office of the IP firm Volpe and Koenig, P.C., where she worked principally on matters of patent law. Following this semester’s judicial internship for the Hon. Michael A. Shipp, U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, she will work on patent and trademark prosecution and litigation matters as a summer associate at Lerner David Littenberg Krumholz & Mentlik, LLP.

With the IPLS Mentoring Program up and running, Shangeeta is already looking ahead to using the skills she will acquire as an attorney in new mentoring opportunities to attract more women to the law and, in particular, to the field of intellectual property law. The mother of a young son, she hopes her story of attending law school while raising a child will inspire other women to have strong career goals. “When women can receive support and mentoring from other women who are successful in their careers and have achieved balance in family life, they often find the strength to do it themselves,” she believes.