College of Law > About > News > alumni-profile-nicole-peterson

Alumna Nicole O’Toole Peterson on Her Passion for Business Law

Nicole O’Toole Peterson (’18) is an associate with Swanson, Martin & Bell, LLP (SMB) where she is part of the Commercial Law Practice Group and vice chair of the Entertainment Law Practice Group. Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Maria Vertuno, who worked with Peterson during her time at DePaul Law, remembers her as “an exceptional student leader. She dedicated herself in a Vincentian way to building community and serving others.” 

Peterson knew she had an interest in business law since she was a child. Her parents were both small business owners, and she saw how lawyers helped people. As an undergraduate at Saint Mary’s College majoring in political science, her first internship was with a tax lawyer. This further inspired her to enter law, though she planned to focus on tax law and expected to be solely transactional. 

She enrolled at DePaul Law because of its Business Law Certificate. She was impressed with the array of business law courses offered and found a love of commercial litigation, “which I was never exposed to before.” She studied both the transactional and litigation sides of business law and became editor-in-chief of the Business & Commercial Law Journal 

Through DePaul, Peterson became a summer associate in SMB’s Commercial Law Practice Group. While representing a record label during a commercial arbitration, she joined the firm’s Entertainment Law Practice Group, which reflected another of her personal interests. As she puts it, “I saw how my passion in commercial law could also be applied towards another area I cared about.”  

Currently a fifth-year associate at SMB, her work includes commercial litigation, business disputes, entertainment law and intellectual property law. She respects SMB because they represent clients of all sizes–from small business owners to large corporations–and handles cases of all sizes–from small breach of contract disputes to large federal court proceedings. She finds it “exciting to advocate for clients who feel they’ve been wronged and get them their best solution. A lot of other firms might push for settlement or mediation, but we will try the case when the client wants it.”  

Peterson enjoys giving back and appreciates the value SMB places on pro bono work. She assisted SMB partner Bill Patterson, in filing an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court on Jack Daniel’s v. VIP. She is active with Lawyers for the Creative Arts—a Chicago-based organization that offers free legal services and resources to clients in the arts, and in 2023, she held a mentoring session at South by Southwest—an organization dedicated to helping creative people achieve their goals. She also helped incorporate a 501(c)(3) for the Saint Mary’s College Chicago Alumnae Association and was named president of the group, which she considers one of her proudest achievements. (She had won the Outstanding Young Alumna Award from the College two years prior.) 

For current law students and recent graduates, Peterson advises them to “try different areas of the law. Whether it’s taking advantage of the many offerings at DePaul Law or using your first several years outside of law school to experiment, it’s important not to be pigeon-holed early in your career. You don’t know where it will take you, and you don’t know what new passions you’ll find.” As part of SMB’s Recruiting Committee, she places a high value on students who are “eager and hungry to learn.” 

In the future, Peterson hopes to make partner at SMB, stay active in the DePaul Law and Saint Mary communities, and continue to do rewarding pro bono work.