Jessica "Nikki" Oates grew up in the beautiful north Georgia mountains of Rabun County and still considers it her true home.
She graduated from Piedmont College in Demorest, Georgia in 2008, then moved to Atlanta to work as a personal injury paralegal.
"I have always had an interest in helping people, especially people who cannot stand up for themselves," she recalled. "Since I was about 17, I've just always been interested in the law and how I can help people."
Nikki's interest in the field of personal injury also comes from a place of understanding; she lost her mother in a car accident in 1991.
After graduating from college, Nikki knew she wanted to go to law school but said it just wasn't an option for her at the time. But the dream never died.
"I ended up being a paralegal for six years. One day I decided to just take the plunge and go to law school. The rest is history. I am living my dream every single day," Nikki said.
She enrolled in the Charlotte School of Law in North Carolina and graduated after two and a half years in 2016.
"Law school is rough, but if I can do it - even after having a baby in the middle of a semester, graduating a semester early, and graduating cum laude - anyone can do it if you really try," she said.
Nikki and her family returned to Atlanta soon after and she was hired on as an attorney for the Law Offices of Gary Martin Hays & Associates.
Her most memorable case over her career involved a client who had been run over by a large SUV and suffered catastrophic injuries as a result. "The defendant was an excluded driver, and our client did not have any uninsured motorist (UM) insurance," she explained.
After weeks of investigation, she found a policy through a relative and was finally able to help the client and their family. "It was such a good feeling. I will never forget that client and how grateful they and their family were for our help," Nikki said.
But Nikki isn't just passionate about the legal rights of her clients. She enjoys volunteering in her community and supporting those in need.
She's volunteered for the American Red Cross, St. Jude, Hometown Heroes (NC), and Charlotte Law Advocates Against the Trafficking of Humans (NC). While in law school, Nikki was also a Pro Bono Ambassador and donated 150 hours of free legal work to the Charlotte community.
Currently, she volunteers at her children's school, her church, and as a coach on her children's sports teams. Nikki also takes her three children to visit nursing homes around the holidays to do fun projects with the residents such as painting nails or reading stories.
Nikki said she also enjoys attending Braves' games and exploring new hiking trails throughout North Georgia.
When asked what advice she would give to someone thinking about being a lawyer, she said, "Being a lawyer is the best job on the planet but it's not easy. You have to work hard every day. It pays off because you get to help so many people who cannot help themselves."
Nikki is part of the Personal Injury Team at Gary Martin Hays & Associates. Meet our other attorneys and the administrative team here!
Hurt because of an accident? Give us a call at 770-934-8000.