Robert Rines started a nationally recognized law school in a spot where a dairy farm once stood.



The Franklin Pierce Law Center: A brief history

Young Inventor & Scientist
Robert Rines became interested in invention and patents as a young boy when he accompanied his father, a patent attorney, to the patent office. He was disappointed to discover that his idea for an invention had already been patented. However, later in life he would become a patent attorney, start a law school and hold several patents himself.

Rines was accepted to MIT at age 15, and later, after WWII, graduated from Georgetown Law School. His senior thesis explored sending voice and other information via light signals instead of wires. After the bombing of Pearl Harbor that year, seniors took a crash course in microwave radar and were graduated early and commissioned in the Army. Rines helped the British with their radar defenses against German aircraft, and by testing his own senior thesis theories with radar, the radar imaging improved.

During the Gulf war his patents were used to implement high-definition radar imaging which resulted in Rines' induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1994. His later inventions in sonar, used in finding the Titanic and in medical ultrasound imaging, were also recognized.

After graduating from law school, Rines worked in his fathers' law firm as an international trial lawyer. Rines felt that the prominent inventors he represented were thwarted by courts' resistance to special patent protections considered bad for competition.

Rines said, "There's no sense in inventing anything if you don't have a patent system, because you can't start a company. People will steal it and there's no incentive...I'd had enough with the courts. They were dinosaurs, and I believed they were never going to change unless there was a revolution.

The Franklin Pierce Law Center
Rines "revolution" came in the form of a new law school specializing in patents, trademarks and copyrights. When MIT wasn't interested in this type of law school, Rines turned to Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire. The president of the college invited him to start the school as a financially independent graduate program. With financial backing from scientists, educators and other professionals from the interdisciplinary
Academy of Applied Science, which Rines also founded, he opened the law center the following year in a barn on Mountain Road in Concord with nearly 100 students. Rines believes the Legislature and the American Bar Association approved of his school and it's different approach to law because of it's differences. Nobody believed it would survive and therefore was no threat to any existing law school.

The East Concord location, once a bull farm, more recently housed Pierce College for women. Dormitory rooms were converted to study carrels, the library shelves were filled with donated books, and second hand furniture was scraped and painted.

The late President Robert Viles from the University of Kentucky was hired as the associate dean with the promise that if the school didn't work out, he would still be paid and have help finding another job.

Nancy Richards-Stower, one of seven women in the first class, remembered the faculty meetings of this new school more like town meetings, with students and faculty working together on school policies, curriculum and hiring. "We were misfits who decided to go to law school. There was a bit of a counter-culture feeling," she recalls.

Rines' mission was clear from the start, and the school immediately got down to business. In the first few weeks, they organized a conference to discuss the formation of a European patent system. Attending were representatives from the European Community, lawyers, engineers, and his MIT colleagues.

During its first year, the new law school welcomed the Patent, Trademark and Copyright Research Foundation, acquired from its previous host, the George Washington Law Center.

The law school's financial situation was unstable in the early years, with occasional loans needed just to pay salaries. But Rines was determined to make it work. Richards-Stower, who later joined Rines' law practice, said, "Bob's motto is 'Don't tell me why I can't do it -- show me how I can'"..."He believed there was always an answer to a problem or an obstacle. There was always a way to make it work."

In 1977 the school formally separated from Franklin Pierce College, moving to its current location adjacent to White Park, announcing Rines as the first president and Viles as dean and treasurer.

Law School's Success
For many years it was difficult, if not impossible, to sustain a patent due to the federal courts' hostility and inconsistency. Rines and his law center colleagues' research and congressional testimony led to the establishment of a separate court of appeals in Washington D.C. to oversee patent disputes. Today, Rines said, about 60% of patents are protected by the courts.

Franklin Pierce has consistently been ranked among the top intellectual property law schools in the country by U.S. News & World Report and has attracted international attention. In the eighties, the center began to offer the master of intellectual property degree, to train patent administrators in other countries in contracts and trade secrets. The 1999 graduating class of more than 200 juris doctor degrees and master's degrees came from a record 32 countries.

This school boasts the largest full-time intellectual property faculty of any law school in the U.S. "We are the little law school that could," said Professor William Murphy, speaking to the 1999 graduating class. "Who would have thought a small school like (Franklin Pierce Law Center) could outrank Columbia, Stanford and Harvard in intellectual property?"