Gravitational pull: Attorney was drawn to practicing family law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

A family law attorney with Alane & Chartier in Lansing, Nicole Hughes earned her undergrad degree in psychology and criminology from the University of Western Ontario. “I have this fascination with understanding people, understanding motives, what causes us to act or react the way that we do, and what causes us to take certain paths in life,” she explains. “I feel that understanding people is essential, and it has proven to be valuable in the practice of law.”

Her attraction to a legal career was a “gravitational pull,” she says.  “I’ve always wanted to be an attorney, probably since long before I even understood the concept of being an attorney. The choices I’ve made so far have shown me why I was so instinctively drawn to law, and I look forward to continuing to discover why I chose this journey.”

Moving across the border from Canada for law studies, Hughes earned her law degree, summa cum laude, from WMU-Cooley Law School, where she won numerous honors awards including the Shane Joseph Johnson Memorial Award for highest achievement in her first year, the Leadership Achievement Award, the Great Deeds Award, the Distinguished Student Award, and the Earl Dayton Award for significant contributions to the law school. She went on to earn a Master’s Degree, LL.M. in Criminal Defense and Advocacy.

“What I most enjoyed most about Cooley was being held responsible,” she says. “Cooley was a wonderful experience, but it’s definitely not a walk in the park. Our professors held us to the highest standards, made no exceptions, and provided an exceptional educational experience, all of which prepared me for the responsibilities of practicing law.”

Hughes worked on the Cooley Innocence Project, where she had the opportunity to work on numerous cases, one of which resulted in a 2014 exoneration of an innocent man. “Interning at the Innocence Project allowed me to see how rewarding the practice of law is,” she says. “Our clients were gracious, patient, and overall appreciative – amazing traits that I was humbled to find in such tough circumstances.”

As a student attorney, Hughes worked at the Washtenaw County Public Defender Office – her first in-court experience. “I felt like I was a sponge ready to absorb every lesson thrown my way,” she says. “I’m appreciative that I had the privilege of learning from Stephen Adams, a brilliant and dedicated attorney.”

After graduation, she worked as a judicial law clerk for Jackson County Circuit Court Judge John McBain, where she enjoyed being able to learn about many different areas of law. “Now that I’m in practice my focus has narrowed, but while I was clerking I was able to learn about a number of areas within a short amount of time. Most importantly, I enjoyed working closely with Judge McBain and his staff – they are a wonderful group of people that I miss dearly.”

Hughes pursued a career in family law with Alane & Chartier. “As I always say, working for this firm is life changing,” she says. “I specifically enjoy family law because it constantly gives me the opportunity to help others by providing guidance and support. This practice is challenging but always rewarding.”

Hughes is a member of the Ingham County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section. “This section comprises a great group of hard working young attorneys,” she says. “The educational seminars are fantastic and give you the opportunity to meet other young attorneys as well as seasoned attorneys. YLS is continuously giving back to the community while offering support for young lawyers.”

Hughes has nothing but praise for her January 2015 experience at the Hillman Advocacy Trial Program, formerly known as the Trial Skills Program, an annual three-day seminar that has provided high-quality, professional courtroom training to hundreds of trial lawyers. “The teachers and judges expect preparation, effort, dedication, and growth,” she notes. “I walked out of there feeling accomplished and better prepared for litigation. I recommend this program to anyone looking to improve their court-room demeanor.”

A native of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where her parents and brother still live, Hughes now makes her home in Portland, northwest of Lansing. She enjoys life in the state’s capital. “I enjoy the big-city characteristics with a small-town feel, and I enjoy the close relationships between other attorneys and judges,” she says.
 

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