Nicole Sieb Smith Remains Calm in Any Storm
Nicole Sieb Smith Remains Calm in Any Storm
Nicole talks about how early challenges in her life shaped the lawyer she is today
Nicole Sieb Smith, a partner in RK’s Tallahassee office, represents national and local businesses and institutions in diverse litigation matters with a focus on employment defense and commercial matters. An experienced litigator, Nicole has represented clients in state and federal courts at both the trial and appellate levels, as well as before administrative boards.
In her practice, she is often faced with difficult situations with employee/employer relationships and conflicts that arise. “If you cannot keep calm, these stressful, complex situations can get the best of you,” said Nicole. “I have a perspective that helps me stay grounded in the toughest situations and cases.”
That perspective came after Nicole graduated from college when she was faced with many adversities and family tragedy. Nicole came away stronger and ready to face whatever comes her way. She talks about her journey and what she enjoys most about her life and work.
Nicole remembers her college years very fondly. Armed with a scholarship and acceptance into a great school, Nicole left her home town of Miami to travel nearly 1500 miles north to Massachusetts to attend Smith College. For a Miami native, the frigid temperatures were shocking at first. “I did not realize the gear that I would need and it certainly solidified that I enjoy seasons, but not snow and ice,” laughed Nicole.
She studied abroad in her junior year at the London School of Economics and Political Science. “It was a great experience. I traveled so much that year, stayed with friends in their homes and experienced places through their eyes,”
Unfortunately, not long after that very happy experience, Nicole learned that life doesn’t always go as planned. “I had planned on going to law school, but my life changed dramatically when I was faced with several obstacles that would force me to put my plans on hold for almost 10 years,” she said.
Shortly after her graduation, Nicole’s mom died in an automobile accident. “During a lawsuit surrounding my mom’s death, I found it incredibly frustrating not understanding the complicated lingo and processes we faced. From that moment on, I knew I would have special understanding and sensitivity for those struggling through the litigation process,” said Nicole.
During that time, Nicole was very busy helping her dad with family matters and being a surrogate mother for her younger siblings when she herself was diagnosed with cancer. She fought her way through chemotherapy and radiation to come out cancer free. Unfortunately, a few years later, Nicole’s father was diagnosed with cancer and passed away.
At 28 years old, Nicole had survived through numerous family tragedies and struggles. She was working for a family law firm as a legal assistant where a mentor encouraged her to follow her dream. “There was a great female family lawyer there who believed in me. She told me I was smart and needed to go to law school,” said Nicole. “She paid for my LSAT and I was on my way.”
Nicole says that while she was starting out a lot later than planned, she knew that she had gathered a lifetime of experiences that would make her a better lawyer. “The personal struggles I survived help me remain calm in any storm. Whatever comes my way, I know I can face the pressure,” she said.
Nicole appreciates that she’s been able to build her practice and focus on the business of law at RK. “I came to RK from a very small boutique firm that had about 15 lawyers at its peak,” said Nicole. “When the two rainmaking partners decided they didn’t want to sustain the practice, I saw many fine lawyers having to begin over again. I learned first-hand that someone won’t always be there to give me a case.”
While Nicole first joined RK in the Miami office where she worked in many areas of litigation, she was particularly drawn to her employment defense cases. “Employment law is fascinating because it’s very statutory and rules driven, so I have a framework, but I’m still working with human narratives and relationships. I work with my clients to understand these human stories and conflicts and apply the broader set of rules and statutes to each situation,” she explained. Nicole represents employers in public and private sectors in cases involving claims of discrimination, harassment, whistle-blower violations, wrongful termination, retaliation and violation of civil rights.
Over the past several years, Nicole has gained extensive experience representing clients defending website accessibility claims brought under the ADA and the Rehabilitation Act.
“RK encouraged me to develop my practice independently, yet provided support through established attorneys in my practice areas. “I saw a trend coming with inaccessibility claims and I was encouraged to research and grow that area,” she said. “Now, I’ve handled dozens of these cases and become a thought leader in this area.” Nicole is both an experienced speaker on the topic of website accessibility and assists her clients to identify the legal considerations involved in auditing and remediating web content and to retain appropriate consultants.
Another great benefit of working at RK is that its statewide presence enabled me to make a life-changing move to Tallahassee almost seamlessly. “I really enjoy the quality of the team I work with-from the lawyers to the paralegals and assistants. We are all very close and have a good, collegial relationship. So, when my husband and I made the decision to move to a smaller community to raise our daughter, Hannah, I was thrilled to be able to maintain my practice,” explained Nicole. “It also made a lot of sense as there is a lot of synergy in my practice area in Tallahassee. It’s a very busy office and I was welcomed with open arms,” she continued. “And, because a lot of my practice is in federal court, I was able to maintain many of my cases from South Florida.”
This May will mark Nicole’s first anniversary in Tallahassee. She couldn’t be happier to have her husband’s parents and her brother living in Tallahassee, also. “We all converged together so that we can enjoy Hannah and spend time together,” she said. “It’s so important for us to all be close together and I’m thankful Hannah has her family nearby to enjoy making special memories together.”