30 In Their Thirties: Courtney L. Nichols, Special Litigation Department Leader and Partner, Plunkett Cooney, Bloomfield Hills

What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer to that question to a child rarely becomes reality. Courtney L. Nichols, a partner at the Plunkett Cooney law firm in Bloomfield Hills, is an exception.
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Courtney L. Nichols. // Photo by Trever Long

What do you want to be when you grow up?” The answer to that question to a child rarely becomes reality. Courtney L. Nichols, a partner at the Plunkett Cooney law firm in Bloomfield Hills, is an exception.

“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was 8 years old,” she says. “I was really inspired by wonderful TV shows such as ‘The Practice,’ ‘True Crime,’ and news stories about trials, and fell in love with the concept of being a trial attorney.

“I was also told at a young age that I would argue with anyone. I didn’t take no for an answer and I asked a million questions, so being a lawyer seemed like a perfect fit. It’s something I never really looked away from.”

She kept her eyes on the prize while attending Clarkston High School, Michigan State University, and the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

One element of Nichols’ dream did change. Once an aspiring criminal defense attorney, she was introduced to employment law at Plunkett Cooney during her second year of law school. She ended up enjoying that area of law and focused on it at Chicago-Kent.

“Now, I don’t do criminal law but I’m still a defense attorney representing employers and companies that have been accused of wrongdoing,” Nichols explains. “If it turns out the company did something wrong, we identify it, we discuss it, and we find a way to deal with that. Usually, the strategy is to find a resolution, not to bury it or hide it.”

Nichols truly is living her dream, becoming the second-youngest person to make partner at Plunkett Cooney in the more than 100-year history of the firm.

“I’m extremely driven and goal-oriented,” Nichols says. “I heard about another individual who made partner in six years, so that was a benchmark for me to hit. That’s something I really strived (for).”

She made partner in five years.

While Nichols still spends time in court with clients, the bulk of her work is consulting with businesses on employment policies and protocols, reviewing employee handbooks, and assessing individual cases.

Now that’s she’s an established attorney, does she still enjoy watching TV shows about her profession?

“I avoid legal shows like the plague,” she says with a chuckle.