Flying high: Law student gains arbitration experience and a new hobby


By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When Wayne State University Law School student Nicole Pitchford spent this summer at the London offices of WilmerHale as an International Commercial Arbitration intern, not only did she gain valuable law experience, but also during her time in the U.K. she picked up flying trapeze as an unusual hobby. 

“It was a really great way to spend every Sunday afternoon and I’ve continued doing circus arts in Detroit, including the flying trapeze, aerial silks, static trapeze, and Lyra/hoop,” says Pitchford, who also took the opportunity to visit Ireland, France and Spain over the course of the summer.

Pitchford’s law student career also is flying high. During her time with WilmerHale, an international firm ranked No. 23 in the U.S. in 2018 Vault Law 100, she did research on how U.S. law applies to international arbitrations; proofread and edited arbitration pleadings and awards; and worked on a guide for a corporate client that became a comprehensive survey about arbitration in most developed countries around the world. 

“It was a really interesting summer, and I gained a lot of knowledge and practical experience in arbitration,” she says.

After earning her undergrad degree in mathematics, summa cum laude, from Lawrence Technological University, Pitchford wanted to use those skills for her career, but neither mathematical research nor teaching held appeal.

“Once I started law school, I realized the law is essentially taking the facts and case law and piecing it together to come to the correct outcome—just like a mathematical proof,” she says.

Her favorite experience at Wayne Law has been participation in the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. 

“Jessup has immensely broadened my horizons and knowledge—plus, I enjoy being an oralist and advocating for my country’s position,” she says. “The excitement of competition is my favorite time of year.

“Our problem is always based on timely international issues, which makes it interesting to research and argue,” she adds. “Last year, we won our Midwest regional competition and got the chance to compete in international rounds for the third year in a row—it was an incredibly exciting experience to compete with teams from around the world. We ended up with the second best brief in the U.S., and two of my teammates and I ranked in the top 100 oralists of the competition. This year’s competition just started and I’m excited to dig my teeth into a new problem.” 

Her specific legal interests lie in arbitration and litigation. 

“I’ve really enjoyed being in and around the courtroom, and working with arbitration this summer,” she says. “Eventually I would love to be practicing international law or international arbitration—the field of public international law is immense and interesting, and I’ve fallen in love with it through Jessup.”

Last year Pitchford clerked at Butler, Butler & Rowse-Oberle PLLC in St. Clair Shores. 

“It’s a small firm, so the experience I got as a summer law clerk was extremely hands-on,” she says. “I got to draft motions, shadow attorneys in court, and follow cases through from the initial pleadings to their conclusion. I gained a lot of practical experience in civil litigation, and confidence in my abilities.”

A life-long resident of Royal Oak and graduate of Royal Oak High School, Pitchford enjoys running, concerts, travel, as well as her circus arts hobby.

She also remains close to her sorority, Chi Omega Rho out of Lawrence Technological University, staying involved with the annual golf outing that raises scholarship funds for an incoming freshmen woman, and attending many of the organization’s charitable events.