In 2010, Nicoletta Milanesio took a sabbatical period from her position in the legal department of Comau, a Fiat subsidiary, to move to the U.S. with her husband, an executive with Magneti Marelli, another Fiat subsidiary, and their two school-age children. Nicoletta has since earned an MBA as well as a Vanderbilt LL.M. In fall 2014, she and her family settled in Detroit, Michigan, where she is again working as a full-time attorney for Comau, which produces manufacturing equipment for the automobile industry.
Nicoletta considered herself lucky that her husband’s work at a manufacturing plant in Pulaski, Tennessee, was near Vanderbilt University, which allowed her to earn an LL.M. at a top law school. With more than 10 years of legal experience in Comau’s legal department and at two Italian law firms, she was surprised to discover how much she enjoyed her law classes. “I discovered the joy of studying law again, it was one of my most exciting experiences as a student. Classes are small, and you attend them with American students, so you get the American university experience and learn how American lawyers think,” she said.
With exciting job opportunities at two different Fiat subsidiaries, Nicoletta and her husband plan to live and work in the U.S. for several years before returning home to Italy. “I always wanted to be a lawyer, and law is my real passion. I will be practicing in the U.S.A. for the next few years, and the LL.M. helped me understand how to manage a case and how to deal with American law,” she said.
Nicoletta excelled in her classes at Vanderbilt, where she particularly liked the fact that “I could focus on the topics I liked—corporate and intellectual property law—and be challenged again. I particularly enjoyed Corporations with Professor [Randall] Thomas and Corporate Governance and Control, a short course with Delaware Supreme Court Justice [Randy] Holland,” she said. “These classes helped me understand how laws governing corporations differ in the U.S. and Europe. And I’m using the knowledge from my Contracts class with Professor [Michael] Bressman every day in my work. He did an excellent job of making a difficult subject easy to understand.”
She was also impressed with the “awesome” teaching she experience both in and outside the classroom. “I cannot honestly find an adjective to describe the dedication and the professionalism of Vanderbilt professors. The doors of their offices are always open, and any question is answered. Some professors—like Professor Thomas—organize weekly review sessions in which it is possible to ask questions or for further explanation on topics discussed in class,” she said. “Professors here take joy in teaching. You don’t find this kind of experience in all universities!”
Nicoletta acknowledges that preparing for class and spending time with her two children, who were 5 and 7, made for a challenging year. After putting her children to bed, “I spent lots of nights with the books to be prepared for class,” she recalled, “but it was worth it.”
She was surprised at how much she enjoyed living in Nashville. “It is a very exciting town with lots of activities,” she said. “It’s not a huge town, and there are several small neighborhoods with shops and restaurants to enjoy. The food is great, and the weather allows you to enjoy the outside almost all year.”
Her advice to future LL.M. students: "Focus on what you really love! This is a unique experience. Do not take courses because you ‘have to.’ Choose them because you want to take them.”