Judge Pillard was appointed to the United States Court of Appeals in December 2013. She graduated from Yale College in 1983 and Harvard Law School in 1987. Following graduation, she served as a law clerk to Judge Louis H. Pollak (1987-1988), and held the Marvin M. Karpatkin fellowship at the American Civil Liberties Union (1988-1989). From 1989 to 1994, she was Assistant Counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, Inc. She served as an Assistant to the Solicitor General of the United States from 1994 to 1997. In 1997, Pillard joined the tenure-track faculty at Georgetown Law.
She served from 1998 to 2000 as Deputy Assistant Attorney General in the Office of Legal Counsel. Pillard returned to Georgetown Law, received tenure, and served from 2008 to 2009 as inaugural Academic Co-Director and Professor at the Center for Transnational Legal Studies, a London-based, Georgetown-led law study program conducted in collaboration with law schools from many different countries. Pillard was an active member of the Georgetown Law Supreme Court Institute (SCI) from its founding in 2003, and became SCI Faculty Co-Director in 2011. She was a Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars during 2012-2013. Pillard remained a full professor at Georgetown Law until her appointment as U.S. Circuit Judge. Pillard and her husband and teenage children live in Washington, D.C.