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Exploring commitment to service through inspiration from friends and family
profile of Nikki Hurtado

Nikki Hurtado found motivation in her family’s past, her friends’ encouragement and the words of leaders in the Emory Law community as she worked toward a career in mass torts and personal injury law.

After finishing college in three years — and with two bachelor’s degrees — Nikki Hurtado applied to Emory Law as an early decision student. She was the consummate overachiever: President’s Scholar. Foote Fellow. Magna cum laude graduate from the University of Miami with Bachelor of Science degrees in education in sport administration and in human and social development.

“I remember receiving my admissions letter from our previous associate dean of admissions, Ethan Rosenzweig. One of the things he wrote was, ‘I hope you will explore your commitment to service with our community, including our Student Bar Association (SBA) and Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA),’” says Hurtado. “I am graduating as a two-time president of LALSA and vice president of academic affairs of SBA. I have never questioned if I made the right choice. I know I did!”

Hurtado’s resilience is a family trait; she says she owes all her success to her parents. “Their experiences as Cuban and Mexican immigrants and entrepreneurs have made them into the two most resilient people that I know. They have fueled my drive and motivation to do better, be better and work hard for my dreams each and every day.” Along with her siblings and her best friends, they are who keep her going.

And she has been going strong since the beginning.

She’s the winner of numerous awards and scholarships, but her start in law school was not without its challenges. “I remember that the first law school class I attended was during orientation with Professor Jennifer Romig,” she says. “It was an introductory Legal Analysis, Research and Communication class. That was the first time I had ever read a case in its entirety, rather than seeing excerpts in the news or college textbooks. It felt like I was reading something in a completely different language.”

She ended up meeting four of her best friends in that class and felt assured that she would not be on her journey alone. She’s made a slew of connections along the way — relationships that would sustain her through law school.

“I really did not know what I needed to be worrying about as a fall semester 1L,” Hurtado notes. “My career advisor, Lauren Jirak, always made time to answer any of my questions and guide me in the right direction. She helped me with countless resumes and cover letters and was always available to talk through job options. Throughout the last three years, I felt a lot of support from people like Director of Student Life Stephanie Dingle, Professor Paul Koster, my mock trial coaches and the amazing teams in the admissions, alumni and communications offices. Their words of encouragement always reassured me that I was on the right path.”

One of Hurtado’s favorite professors, Koster (her other favorite is Dean-designate Richard D. Freer), said of her: “Nikki is an outstanding law student and future lawyer. She constantly strives to further her legal knowledge and lawyering skills, cares deeply about the effect of law on society and seeks to utilize her expertise to impact others meaningfully and positively. She is also a tremendous leader within the Emory Law community, always aiming for the best for our community and inspiring others along the way.”

As an aspiring trial attorney, Hurtado will graduate with a civil litigation and dispute resolution concentration. After she graduates and passes the Florida Bar exam, she will join The Ferraro Law Firm in Miami, Florida, as an associate attorney. The Ferraro Law Firm handles a broad range of mass tort and personal injury cases involving mesothelioma, pharmaceuticals, environmental toxins and commercial cases.

She takes with her a legal maxim learned in her favorite course, Remedies, taught by 2016 first honor graduate, Adjunct Professor William Eye 16L. Eye introduced her to the phrase, “Equity aids the vigilant and not those who slumber on their rights.”

She also takes with her pride in becoming an Emory alumna.

“Being an Emory Law alumnus means being open-minded and never turning away from new, intimidating experiences,” she says. “It means learning something from every obstacle you encounter, every new face you meet and every adventure you take.”

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