Double duty: Law review editor also leads moot court program


Last year, Nancy Zieah (right) was a member of moot court competition at WMU-Cooley Law school  that ranked among the top 30 national teams in advanced rounds. Zieah is pictured with fellow student Brittany Lindsay at a recent competition.

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Eight years of owning and operating a liquor store in downtown Detroit shaped the way Nancy Zieah sees the law.

“I had to find a balance between a neighborhood at odds with itself and the multiple law enforcement divisions in the downtown area,” she said. “This gave me an opportunity to see how the same series of events can lead to a wide variety of conclusions.”

Now a 3L student on the Dean’s List and Honor Roll at WMU-Cooley Law School and due to graduate this year, Zieah was drawn to the law by its ability to provide aid and assistance.

“Regardless of whether my future client is on trial for a criminal offense, hoping for an amicable divorce or seeking compensation owed to them, the legal profession is one that helps people,” she said.

Zieah is particularly appreciative of the WMU-Cooley Law School faculty.

“Our professors have dozens of students and a life beyond the classroom, yet they have time to get to know us, share an opportunity, or link us with a professional who might help us get to where we want to be,” she said.

Zieah — who also previously spent five years as a credit card processing agent — appreciates the fact that many students at Cooley are, like her, not traditional law school students right out of undergrad.

“Many are balancing law school with other responsibilities like being a parent, working a full-time job, or taking a chance on a drastic career change,” she said. “There is nothing more inspiring than surrounding yourself with people who have that kind of drive and determination.”

Zieah started her academy trajectory with an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan-Dearborn, where she was on the honor roll for all terms; and did data entry and research for “Correlates of War.” Fluent in Arabic and Chaldean, she was a delegate in the Model Arab League and was a member of Amnesty International.

“I studied political science because it casts a wide net over societal problems and solutions,” Zieah said. “I particularly liked studying international politics and social justice reform. This is probably what drew me to things like the Jessup International Moot Court competition at Cooley, and the expungement fairs.”

The current president of the Melissa Mitchell Moot Court, Zieah earned the Trinity Term Top Advocate Award in 2021 for the highest score in a single round.

Last year she was a member of the Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court team that ranked amongst top 30 national teams in Advanced Rounds.

“My first term was particularly difficult and I wasn’t sure if this was the right career path for me, but Moot Court reassured me that law school is exactly where I was meant to be,” she said. “In our first year, we get so bogged down with preparing for finals that we don’t realize how much we have learned. Moot Court is where students are able to apply the material, and this helped us see
how to approach those daunting exams.”

Her experience with expungement came from volunteering for Safe and Just, an organization that hosts expungement fairs in the metro-Detroit area.

“The most memorable clients were those who were motivated by principle and sought expungement for offenses that dated back to the ‘70s and ‘80s,” she said. “Today’s sentencing programs and options would have yielded very different results and while we can’t turn back the hands of time, it was humbling to see them find some solace.”    

Last September, Zieah started an externship at the Washtenaw County Office of Public Defender in Ann Arbor.

“I appreciated my supervisor for approaching this position with a ‘sink or swim’ mentality,” she said. “I didn’t spend weeks observing and conducting an endless amount of legal research. By the second week, she had me on the record and let me be uncomfortable.

Zieah enjoys serving as editor-in-chief of Law Review; and last year was honored with the Dawn C. Beachnau Award, presented to members of the Law Review Board of Editors who made the most significant contributions through their leadership and dedication.

“After the pandemic forced everyone to rethink what works, I’ve been dedicated to improving student organizations at Cooley,” she said. “With the Law Review, I had the privilege of leading students who were dedicated to modernizing how the Law Review published scholarly articles by restructuring the organization, changing the publication process, and creating more access.”  

Zieah — who in the fall of 2021 earned a Certificate of Merit in Scholarly Writing for the highest grade in the course — co-founded and serves as president of the law school’s Chapter of Scribes, a national organization dedicated to encouraging legal authors and improving legal writing.

“The founder of Scribe-Auburn Hills reached out to me and explained that Scribes takes an informal approach to helping students move away from archaic legalese like ‘thereinafter.’ I believed in the long-term advantage of helping students shift into succinct writing styles and thought it would be a great addition to the Lansing organizations,” she says.

During the pandemic, Zieah found the challenge of remote learning was actually a benefit.

“Remote learning appears to be a disconnected method of learning, but my peers and I have had a very different experience,” she said. “Our group chat of students turned into a 25-member family because virtual learning brings down those walls that the classroom restricts to who sits next to you. For me, it was an advantage to getting through law school.”  

Her eight-year-old twin boys, Dylan and Nolan, were five years old when Zieah started law school.

“While their father didn’t enjoy how virtual classrooms took over our home, sharing the remote learning experience with them helped all of us get through it,” she said.

Zieah plans on launching her career in the field of criminal defense.

“Hopefully, that helps set the foundation for appellate work. I enjoy areas of the law that are geared towards appellate work —specifically, criminal appeals. This area of the law is where I can combine my passions for writing and oral advocacy,” she said.

“The most important thing about my career goals is that I’m able to maintain a healthy work-life balance,” Zieah said. “I’ve met too many attorneys who are unhappy because they chose an area of the law or a place of employment for all the wrong reasons and I plan on doing everything I can to avoid this predicament.”


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