Updated: Sep 11, 2021
Nicki Cerasoli didn’t come from a family of lawyers. After earning her undergraduate degree from Whittier College, she was working in the technology industry for a mortgage tech services company and knew she was ready to take her career in a different direction. She looked into accounting, nursing, and the law, ultimately deciding on a legal career because it seemed interesting and challenging. While her career has taken a few detours, she feels she has reached a place where she knows the law is what she wants to do. As Nicki sums up, “It’s been an interesting journey!”
Teaching elementary school was one of Nicki’s detours. After practicing law for four years, she took a year to get her teaching certificate and had her daughter that same year. Nicki’s mom was a teacher, and she had an interest in teaching from a young age, often “teaching school” to her stuffed animals. Nicki taught elementary school for two years and then took a year off when her son was born before deciding to return to the law. As a new mom, she felt it was not the right time to try to learn a new career. She went back to something she knew well, the law. Nicki started back part time and gradually ramped up.
Nicki is currently Of Counsel with Holland & Hart, practicing in corporate law, mergers and acquisitions, and emerging growth and venture capital. She first became interested in the corporate and M&A field when she was a summer associate at Kamlet Shepherd & Reichert. She did a rotation and found she really enjoyed the work. While she had always thought she would be a litigator, after doing oral argument (sweaty-palmed, voice shaking) in law school, she decided she preferred transactional work.
Nicki enjoys working with many different types and sizes of businesses. Her work is typically project-based: selling or acquiring a business, entering into a new commercial relationship, or bringing on investors. She likes the puzzle and challenge of it and helping clients achieve their business objectives. She finds something new with every transaction, which keeps it fresh. If the work becomes cookie cutter, it’s not as interesting for her. Nicki says, “Things are rarely easy, but that’s the life of a lawyer.” She admits that the pace can be a bit frenzied and involve stressful timelines, but in general, she finds her work to be fulfilling and engaging.
A typical workday for Nicki involves a lot of emailing, especially in today’s times, including gathering information for contracts she is preparing and frequent communication tracking various milestones and deliverables for each deal. As Of Counsel, her work entails a lot of drafting and covers everything from doing the “heavy lifting” on transactions to managing due diligence or drafting any agreements that come her way, even though they may not be the most exotic. As her practice was already heavily electronic, Nicki fortunately has not found significant changes in the way she works due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but she misses in-person time with colleagues in the office.
When asked about the inspirations in her career, Nicki quickly responds that she has met many inspiring people through the Asian Pacific American Bar Association (APABA) and the CWBA. She has enjoyed learning from and collaborating with a varied group of female lawyers and lawyers of color who are thriving professionally and serving as leaders in the community and the legal profession. During a period of reflection brought on by the pandemic, Nicki’s involvement with these groups empowered and inspired her to look at how she could show up as a leader in her own way and take the next step in her career.
Nicki first started her involvement with APABA as an associate, acting as co-treasurer and serving on the board of directors. During this time, she met many great people, some of whom she was delighted to find were still there after she returned from her break from practicing law. In addition to the wonderful people she serves with on the APABA board, she says that it has been helpful to know there is a supportive group of lawyers with whom she feels she belongs, and her colleagues in APABA have been a positive influence on her professional growth. She was even introduced to her current firm through an APABA connection.
Nicki describes herself as “very new” to the CWBA and is the APABA Representative on the CWBA board this year. Being new to the board, she is excited to be more active in the organization, learn from the other board members, and do her part to further the CWBA’s goals and mission. As the APABA Representative, her job is to be a liaison and communicate CWBA events and initiatives to APABA, and vice versa.
Nicki is most proud of being able to grow in her career while being a mom of two young kids (now 8 and 10 years old). She is grateful she has been able to strike a balance that works for her. This has required “setting some pretty major boundaries and not apologizing.” While she couldn’t see it as an associate, she now knows it’s okay to take a different path. She accepts her legal life may not look like what one might think it should as a new associate, such as stepping away from practice for a time and working part time. Nicki feels incredibly fortunate to have found law firms that have been willing to accommodate part-time work, and recognizes this as the most important factor in allowing her to remain in the practice of law while raising a family. But working part-time also came with big financial and career sacrifices. She is not a partner at her current firm and acknowledges it will take a while to get there. Nicki recommends finding your “why” in the legal profession, as well as finding people to work with who will respect your career decisions.
In balancing her personal and professional lives, Nicki emphasizes the importance of setting expectations on both the work and family sides and communicating those so everyone is on the same page. She also feels it’s important to be flexible. While she understands some weeks “the ideal balance” just won’t be there, she knows that overall, it is there. She found she had to let go of the anxiety around trying to do it all and realize she can’t, and doesn’t need or want to, do it all. She has to be able to say “no.” In particular, this has meant not taking on too many extracurricular activities. Along the way, her husband has been a huge supporter, and they have figured out how to make it work most of the time and get over the bumps in the road, together.
To new attorneys interested in working in her practice area, Nicki says, “It would be great to have more women doing corporate and M&A in Colorado! If they get the opportunity, try it out, even if they never considered it before.” She advises connecting with other women working in the field, though she admits it has taken her a while. She is happy to have more women colleagues now working at a larger firm. She recommends exposure through networking and getting to know different firms as good ways for a new lawyer to find an entry point into corporate and M&A work.
Outside of work, Nicki loves spending time with her family, skiing and spending time outdoors. They also love to explore Colorado and traveled to Breckenridge and Steamboat this summer. They are already booking their winter vacation in Crested Butte. Nicki also enjoys gardening, baking, and yoga. She is currently growing vegetables in her “postage-stamp sized” garden and looking forward to adding more flowers.
Nicki is an adoptee who grew up on a farm in rural Missouri. Growing up, it was just her family in a very small community. This gave her a life-long appreciation for family, community, and being outdoors. While she had to get used to the city when her family moved to Phoenix when she was in high school, and has been happily settled in the Denver metro area for many years, don’t be surprised if you find Nicki retiring to a smaller town when she finally concludes what she hopes will be many more years of a challenging, sometimes hectic, but ultimately rewarding career.
Kate Noble is a CWBA Publications Committee member and a legal editor with Colorado Bar Association CLE, the nonprofit educational arm of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations.