By Sheila Pursglove
Wayne Law student James Carpenter is spending this summer in the General Counsel’s Office at Tata Motors in Pune, India, in an internship sponsored by the law school’s Program for International Legal Studies.
“This would have been the trip of a lifetime regardless of the motive, but I’m very pleased that it’s integrated into my law school education,” says Carpenter, who commutes daily via company provided shuttle buses from his apartment to the Pimpri automotive plant.
“Being able to work at Tata has provided insight into the intricate regulatory compliance and barriers a multinational corporation faces,” he says. “It has also shown me that despite the many cultural differences here, the human element of quality companies does not change; good companies are based on good values with engaged workers.”
After conducting a legal analysis of the recent Indian bankruptcy law and comparing it to the U.S. Chapter 11 process and the equivalent U.K. process, he will present his findings in a meeting with the CFO at Tata headquarters in Bombay in late August.
Carpenter has enjoyed visiting downtown Pune, about three hours southeast of Mumbai. Once the base of peshwas (prime ministers) of the Maratha Empire, the city is home to the Aga Khan Palace, now a memorial to Mahatma Gandhi. He also took a guided tour of the massive Tata plant, spanning more than 500 acres; and plans to take a day’s drive to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal.
“It just wouldn’t be a trip to India without it,” he says.
Carpenter’s career path started with an undergrad degree in political science and a master’s degree in Urban Planning and Real Estate, both from the University of Michigan.
In his senior undergrad year, an internship at the Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing gave him his first practical introduction to law. “The most educational aspect was canvassing constituents – knocking on doors and actually hearing what the voters had to say gave much more purpose to the job,” he says.
He then worked for two years with longtime U-M lecturer and real estate developer Peter Allen in Ann Arbor, and traveled all across Michigan as a consultant on contract with the Michigan Economic Development Corporation as part of the Redevelopment Ready Program. “The developers and stakeholders varied from city to city, but we always sought ways to revitalize their downtowns,” he explains.
The immersion in commercial real estate drew Carpenter to study law at Wayne State University. “While many things in that field can be done without a lawyer, it seemed like important aspects of the business – such as leases, zoning, and purchase agreement negotiation – all required attorney oversight,” he says. “I was fascinated by the role lawyers played and wanted to learn it for myself. It was a big decision, whether to go back to school or continue with my career, but I am very glad I chose to attend Wayne – it’s definitely paid off.
“Wayne Law is an excellent place to study law – aside from being located in the heart of a city on the rise, it has a supportive student base and responsive staff that is truly invested in your success. In addition to its sterling reputation locally, we have many successful alums who have ventured outside Michigan and have the ability to connect us all over the country. I’ve experienced that benefit first hand.”
Carpenter found that Moot Court was a fun and interactive way to refine advocacy skills and his membership in the Entrepreneurship and Business Law Society introduced him to the many ways a lawyer could contribute to a business, including serving as corporate counsel.
A member of the Delta Theta Phi legal fraternity, the Entrepreneur and Business Law Society, and International Law Student Association, Carpenter also is a member of the Urban Land Institute, and a supporter of Friends of WALLY, a group promoting a daily commuter rail line from Washtenaw to Livingston county. He also is a founding member and fundraising director for the Wayne Business Law Journal, which plans to release its first edition in the upcoming academic year.
Carpenter’s 1L summer job was with Pembrook Capital Management in New York City, which deals in commercial real estate financing around the country. The firm’s CEO Stuart Boesky, a Wayne Law alum, brought him on board for projects that included back office compliance work, property due diligence, assistance in loan underwriting, and term-sheet negotiation and drafting, providing a glimpse of what could be done with a law degree in lieu of traditional legal practice.
He spent the past year interning for Corporate Counsel at Quicken Loans in Detroit where he gained exposure to a wide array of legal topics including litigation, mortgage and securities law, IP, all sorts of licensing and regulatory work and M&A experience. “The fast paced work environment showed me what working in-house was all about,” he says. “It’s truly a balancing act between legal thoroughness and business efficiency.”
Carpenter hopes eventually to practice real estate law and transactional work. “I would never shy away from the opportunity to go in-house but it seems necessary to get some firm experience my first few years out,” he says.
A Detroit native, Carpenter moved to Howell at the age of 5, and currently lives in midtown Detroit. “It’s great seeing all the innovation and ideas popping up all over Detroit and the metro region,” he says. “It brings a great sense of pride to rep the D throughout my travels, people know us and the feedback has been almost all positive. It’s a very exciting time to be here and a very exciting time to be practicing law.”
In his leisure time, he enjoys golf, swimming, biking, fishing, and ballroom dancing. “I danced competitively in undergrad but now it’s strictly for social interactions,” he says.
He also has fond memories of a trip to Guatemala during his U-M graduate studies, when he volunteered with the Appropriate Technology Collaborative in Guatemala. “It was both fun and rewarding,” he says. “Our team visited the historic city of Antigua before traveling to Lake Atitlan villages where we installed solar panels on the roof of a local school and also assisted in the construction of sustainable housing efforts. Solar technology makes much more sense than fossil fuels in a place so close to the equator but current acquisition and installation costs put it out of reach for many in the region.”
By Sheila Pursglove