Fall 2022

Patricia Carnese, ’82: Private Practice in Paris is a Dream Come True

By Chelsea Liddy Pivtorak

Patricia Carnese, ’82
Patricia Carnese, ’82

A lover of museums, music, and delicious food, Patricia Carnese, ’82, dreamed of living and working in Europe. She is a loyal donor to the Law School Fund because Michigan Law was her ticket there. 

When Carnese was accepted into the Law School, she was unsure which direction her career would take but was attracted to the problem-solving aspect of the law and how it trained her to think. She landed her first position at Debevoise & Plimpton LLP in New York, focusing on corporate transactions, especially mergers and acquisitions. 

Carnese remembers the exact date she left the United States: June 4, 1986. She had been offered an opportunity to transfer to the Debevoise office in Paris for a couple of years. “I jumped at the chance and fell in love with the city right away,” she says. 

She stretched her two-year stint to three years and eventually decided to stay in France rather than return to New York and stay with her firm. Carnese was hired to do in-house work by Hachette Filipacchi Presse, an international magazine publisher based in Paris that was expanding globally and looking for someone to help them manage their international legal work. “Even though they were a multinational company, they were very, very French and had little experience with the Anglo-American legal culture they were increasingly faced with—and faced with in English. My value added was knowing both,” she says. 

Carnese managed cross-border transactions for the company, which at the time published magazine titles such as Elle and Car and Driver. She stayed with Hachette until she took an early buyout in 2007, which enabled her to take trips back to her parents’ home in New Jersey and help care for them until they died in 2011 and 2012. 

Despite the distance, Carnese has kept an ongoing connection with her alma mater and always looks forward to hosting her Michigan classmates when they visit the City of Light. She also has attended Michigan Law reunions and has been giving on a monthly basis to the Law School for several years. She directs her gifts to the Law School Fund—the School’s annual fund for discretionary support—and believes that the automatic monthly payment is an easy way of giving that allows her to feel that she’s making a larger impact over time. 

“Studying at Michigan Law was the experience of a lifetime. The quality—intellectual, moral, human—of the teaching staff and students is extraordinary, and I have developed lasting friendships,” says Carnese. “I owe everything to that School, including the opportunities to live and work in Paris. It was an easy decision to give something back to a place that gave me so much.” 

These days, Carnese delights that so many European destinations are a “hop, skip, and a jump away,” letting her visit friends scattered all over Europe. She considers Europe her home now—the best place to indulge her loves, such as cooking (the outdoor markets are a special pleasure), wandering the Louvre, trying to master Italian, and attempting to revive her Latin. “The days aren’t long enough. Sometimes I wonder how I ever found the time to work,” she laughs. 

“I got lucky. There was nothing much out of the ordinary about my career, except that I did it in France and in French,” says Carnese. “But that was a big gift. Some people would say I paid a price for moving here, but I disagree. It wasn’t always easy, but 36 years later, the attachment remains very, very strong.”