Wherever James Pierce, ’21, finds himself—whether it’s his family farm in Indiana, the Michigan Law Quad, or a reality television show—he discovers ways to step outside his comfort zone. That includes seeking true love in front of a television audience of millions on season 20 of ABC’s megahit reality show, The Bachelorette.

Pierce earned his undergraduate degree from Purdue University before matriculating at Michigan Law. “Being accepted to Michigan opened the door for so many opportunities, and I’m always going to be grateful to Michigan for giving me a chance,” he said.

The latter half of Pierce’s time at the Law School was during the pandemic, and his familiarity with The Bachelorette was a byproduct of that. With the shift to virtual classes and following social distancing regulations, he and a group of friends bonded over tuning into the show’s weekly episodes. “We’d always joke about what it’d be like if we were on the show—the shenanigans we’d pull and the type of contestants we’d be,” he said.

From “what if” to reality

After earning his law degree, a friend nominated Pierce as a Bachelorette contestant. “When I got an email saying I was chosen, I thought it was spam and deleted it,” he remembered. Not long after, Mayer Brown’s Chicago office hired Pierce as an associate.

He began working in their banking and finance department, putting the idea of a televised dating competition filmed in California out of his mind. 

But as he acclimated to his position and new seasons of The Bachelorette rolled on, the same friend nominated him again. Pierce decided to lean into it this time. 

On the show, Pierce honored his Indiana roots and exuded authentic charm. In one scene he shared a care package from home with the bachelorette, Charity Lawson. The contents included cider from his family’s apple orchard, donuts, and a handwritten note from his mom. Lawson, a child therapist, called him “precious.”

While reality shows are famous for amplifying tension between contestants, in competing against two dozen fellow suitors vying for Lawson’s affection, Pierce was shocked by the lasting connections he made with his castmates. “I never would’ve thought I’d come out of this with so many new, really good friends,” said Pierce. “There were all these incredibly accomplished, successful guys on the show, and I was blown away by my personal and professional conversations with them. That was the biggest blessing I’ve gotten out of all of this.” 

He also appreciates his firm’s support of his participation on the show from the moment he nervously introduced the idea to his boss. He’s quick to point out that the support extended far beyond providing temporary coverage on deals with his clients. 

“My co-workers would have weekly meetings with the partners, and they would scour the internet to see where I was on the show, looking for spoilers from the next episode,” he said. “I actually feel like I’ve gotten into a lot more conversations with partners now because they’re curious to hear about my experience.” 

James Pierce, ’21, appeared on season 20 of The Bachelorette. He is pictured with the bachelorette, Charity Lawson.
James Pierce, ’21, appeared on season 20 of The Bachelorette. He is pictured with the bachelorette, Charity Lawson.

Life after The Bachelorette

Since returning to his life in Chicago, Pierce found an opportunity to merge worlds, inviting a friend from Michigan Law and a friend from The Bachelorette to an event hosted by Mayer Brown. “Through [Mayer Brown’s] NextGen initiative, younger associates and their professional networks can connect,” he said. “It was an opportunity for these two guys that I think very highly of to meet each other, which was fun.”

Beyond introducing him to the show and to the friend who nominated him to appear on it, Pierce credits the Law School for preparing him for an experience like The Bachelorette.

“Michigan taught me to seek out things that made me uncomfortable,” he said. “If I were to encourage other law students to do anything, it would be to embrace that feeling.”