by Joel S. Miliband, Dean J. Zipser, Robert W. Dyess Jr., and Wendy Hatch
The world greeted then Nikki Presley (and yes, the “Presley” does by a circuitous route trace back to Elvis, or so the legend goes) in a Northeastern suburb of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, the second and youngest child of Gene and Mona Presley—and boy, has she made the most of it! Whether cruising the uninhabited countryside at age nine on her mini-bike; rescuing six sibling puppies from the pound with her allowance money (“But Mom, I just found them on the side of the road”); excelling in skiing (water and snow), tennis, and gymnastics (and teaching the latter); assuming leadership roles in her sorority; conquering law school while finding time to develop her dueling piano bar participation talents at O’Brien’s; becoming a trusted and skilled lawyer; enjoying the adventures of a world traveler; ascending to the title of bar association aficionado (sounds so much better than “junkie”!); and being an amazing daughter, sister, aunt, wife, stepmom, and friend, Nikki has grabbed life with the energy of multitudes and with the compassion, loyalty, and dedication of few. Now, some twenty-seven years after graduating law school and leaving Oklahoma to come to California for “a year or two,” Nikki is your 2018 OCBA President.
In 1991, Nikki arrived in California as a newly-minted Oklahoma lawyer who had spent her entire life to that point living in Oklahoma and now wanted to experience—just for a year or two—the California life. Landing a position with a small, but powerful, law firm (Copenbarger & Associates), Nikki had her first setback when it was strongly “suggested” that she lose the accent before she would be allowed to go to court. Not to be dissuaded from achieving her goals, Nikki dispensed with the accent (mostly), but those who know her well understand that “y’all” is never going away! Nikki quickly developed her skills as a probate litigation lawyer under the mentorship of Paul Copenbarger who, in addition, encouraged her to participate in local bar activities. The rest, as they say, is history.
In 1998, Nikki joined Good Wildman Hegness and Walley (now Good Wildman) where she and current partner (and co-author) Robert W. Dyess, Jr. first began what has now been a nearly twenty-year professional relationship. During that time, Nikki advanced from a young attorney to an accomplished legal advisor with a thriving practice in a variety of probate matters, including probate administrations, guardianships, conservatorships, complex probate lawsuits, and appeals. Adjectives that come to mind in describing Nikki’s character as an attorney include professional, principled, productive, and punctual. (More on those Ps later.) For each client matter, Nikki emphasizes a highly professional approach to every step of the representation. Her development as an attorney is a testament to that professionalism. The well-being of clients is paramount to either her expenditure of time or her compensation. She prioritizes ethics. As her practice has grown, and her workload has correspondingly increased, Nikki has become adept at producing large volumes of work product in a timely and efficient manner. Her practice requires regular morning court appearances in five southern California counties, for which Nikki is typically on the road before 6:15 am so that she will be on time and prepared.
It is, of course, nice (and important) to be so highly regarded by your law partners; but what about those people to whom lawyers dedicate (and who make) their careers? Here, again, Nikki excels, and has become a trusted advisor to her clients—who not only trust her, but stay with her. Private fiduciary (and co-author) Wendy Hatch is an example of the lasting client relationships Nikki fosters. Nikki first represented Wendy early in their respective careers. At once, Wendy was impressed with Nikki’s preparation, writing, knowledge of the law, and attention to detail. Their attorney-client relationship has continued for nearly twenty-five years. Nikki’s representation of Wendy (and all of her clients), then and now, is characterized by preparation, leadership, and professionalism—the same qualities that have made her a natural and outstanding leader of our bar association. (More about that a bit later.)
Whether advocating on behalf of a client in a courtroom or by submission of a persuasive brief, Nikki is on top of the issues and earns respect. Clients appreciate Nikki’s commitment and her candor. Nikki is at her best tackling and conquering the tough issues, and clients know that Nikki will talk to them straight, and not simply tell them what they want to hear.
As all who know her can attest, Nikki enjoys being an attorney. Fortunately for the OCBA, Nikki also enjoys her commitment to the OCBA and other professional organizations. Taking Paul Copenbarger’s advice to heart, Nikki began participating in the OCBA not long after her arrival in California. In 1996, after meeting (but not realizing, or even considering, he would be) her future husband, Joel S. Miliband (2000 OCBA President), Nikki began hanging around bar association folks on a more regular basis, including Joel, and the thoughts she then still entertained of returning to Oklahoma began to subside as the relationship with Joel grew.
Nikki quickly became a sought-out and trusted bar leader. Space limitations do not afford us the opportunity to begin to list all of her OCBA activities. Indeed, it is hard to find a committee or task force that didn’t include Nikki. In addition to her service as an officer and a board member, Nikki’s OCBA involvement includes, among many other volunteer positions, serving on the board of the OCBA’s Charitable Fund for the past nine years, as well as chairing or co-chairing its Fall Gala during that same time period (and conceiving of and flawlessly executing the “Raise Your Glass” events of the past few years); chairing the Lawyer Referral Information Services Committee for eight years; co-chairing the OCBA’s Mentoring Committee for three years (and serving on it for many more); chairing the Legislative Resolutions Committee (as well as being a member of the committee for the past twenty-two years); serving for many years on the Administration of Justice Committee; chairing the Finance Committee; chairing the Investment Committee; serving as an arbitrator on the Mandatory Fee Arbitration Committee; and serving on the Access to Justice Task Force and the Homeless Task Force—just to name a few. And Nikki hasn’t stopped with the OCBA; she’s a member of the Hispanic Bar Association, Orange County Asian American Bar Association, Orange County Women Lawyers Association, Orange County Jewish Bar Association, Lex Romana (Italian American Lawyers of Orange County), and the Celtic Bar Association. Oh, and she’s also still a member of her law school’s Executive Committee.
Anyone who knows Nikki can easily explain her rise through our bar ranks. Nikki rolls up her sleeves and does whatever is needed (and then some), she is open-minded, and she has unquestioned judgment. Nikki is a consensus builder whom others seek out. Indeed, many, if not most, of Nikki’s OCBA leadership roles began with someone asking her to serve rather than Nikki vying for a position. (Dean pleads to this, “guilty as charged.”) She performs.
One quality that runs throughout everything Nikki does, and which serves to make her a great lawyer, bar leader, and person, is that Nikki cares. She cares about her clients, she cares about the profession, and, fortunately for us, she cares about the OCBA and its members. Nikki carries this same devotion to her non-professional life. She is a loyal friend and family member who is always there when needed, from flying home frequently to see her mother during her final illness to checking in daily with her dad and other family members still in Oklahoma, to supporting in all ways the three adult children she “inherited” when she and Joel married in 2005 (not to mention the two next-generation little ones who have since arrived and know her as “Nana Nik” or sometimes “Nik Nik”), to being an incredibly supportive, loving, and wonderful spouse of whom Joel could not be more proud.
Going back to her Presley roots, Nikki can be summed up with a slew of “P” words—professional, proficient, positive, probate-savvy, passionate, prominent, and personable. But that’s too much of a mouthful (not to mention the excessive alliteration). Taken together, they simply make Nikki the perfect OCBA President. We congratulate her and look forward to a phenomenal year. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)
Joel S. Miliband is a partner and General Counsel of Brown Rudnick LLP where he concentrates his practice in the areas of complex civil and business litigation and corporate restructuring. He is a past president of the OCBA (2000) and the proud husband of your 2018 President. Dean J. Zipser is a founding partner of Umberg Zipser LLP, a past president of the OCBA, and, like Nikki, an admitted bar association junkie/aficionado. He’s known and had the pleasure of working with Nikki on OCBA matters for approximately twenty years, including co-chairing the Mentoring Committee together for three years. Robert W. Dyess, Jr. is a partner at Good Wildman. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Wendy Hatch is a California Licensed Professional Fiduciary and Owner of Hatch and Associates. She can be reached at email@example.com.