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Breaking the Ice: From paralegal to IP attorney and now author

Todd Nelson//September 7, 2023

Megan M. Miller

Megan M. Miller

Breaking the Ice: From paralegal to IP attorney and now author

Todd Nelson//September 7, 2023

Megan M. Miller has leveraged her patent paralegal experience to earn a law degree, become an associate at Winthrop & Weinstine and most recently co-author of a guide on international patent filing strategy and procedures.

Miller undertook the project at the invitation of co-author Jay Erstling, former director of the Office of the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) within the World Intellectual Property Organization.

The book, “The Practitioner’s Guide to the PCT,” explains the complexities of the treaty, which allows applicants to apply for patent protection in multiple countries. The American Bar Association published the guide in May.

Miller was working as an international patent paralegal when she met Erstling, then of counsel on international intellectual property matters and professor emeritus at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. Erstling encouraged Miller to take the entrance exam and enroll in law school.

“I still feel very lucky about it all,” Miller said.

Name: Megan M. Miller

Title: Associate, Winthrop & Weinstine

Education: B.A., criminology, University of Minnesota Duluth; J.D., Mitchell Hamline School of Law, J.D.

Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?

A: Tell me about your self-care routine. I, especially during COVID, got more into this. Taking baths and skincare. I just started doing gua sha. I enjoy Peloton classes, so tell me your favorite instructor.

Q: Why law school?

A: My first job, I was fortunate to do domestic work, both patent and trademark. I moved to a different firm doing that and outgoing work to our foreign associates and learning international filings. Later I was solely outgoing, international filings and only on the patent side. I didn’t want to lose all those years and that skill set. I thought going to law school would give me more deference in how I would to practice and use those skills, and I think I was right.

Q: What are you reading?

A: I just started listening to Michelle Obama’s “Becoming.”

Q: Pet peeve?

A: People who don’t take ownership of their mistakes. We all make mistakes. If you bring that mistake to the attention of the person who it needs to be brought to, and especially if you have a way to fix it and not happen again, I think people, myself included, are very receptive to that.

Q: Best part of your work?

A: The diversity of my work. Because of my history as a paralegal and 14 years of experience prosecuting patents as a paralegal, I have this knowledge base, that’s really helpful, strategically and procedurally, to our clients. It’s nice to incorporate that into my trademark practice. I also have a data privacy practice that’s a nice complement.

Q: Most challenging?

A: Staying on top of the changes to IP and privacy laws. Especially privacy at the moment, given every state’s changes. Not just in the U.S. Our practice is worldwide, so we’re dealing with the laws of any number of countries on any given day.

Q: Favorite activity away from work?

A: Traveling. I love New York. I have friends there, so visiting them is always a favorite. Locally, I like walking around the lakes. Peloton classes. Trying new restaurants. Being in any body of water when possible.

Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?

A: We moved to Proctor at end of my sixth-grade year. It’s right outside of Duluth, at the top of the hill. Canal Park is always a hot spot. The Rose Garden. Fitger’s. Brighton Beach, just up the North Shore.

Q: Legal figure you admire?

A: Jay [Erstling]. He’s contributed to my career. He mentored me. He’s extremely intelligent, extremely humble and probably the most well-connected person you’d ever meet.

Q: Misconception that others have about your work?

A: A lot of clients think things will happen much quicker than they do. We have to be very upfront about in our initial counseling, setting those expectations.

Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?

A: I love legal shows that showcase women in leadership roles. “The Good Wife,” “Damages” and “Drop Dead Diva” are a few favorites.

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