Alumnus Aaron T. Hicks ‘04 Proudly Contributes to Nationally Recognized Firm
September 11, 2015
“Graduating from law school was a dream come true,” said Aaron T. Hicks ‘04. Becoming an attorney was a goal Hicks set for himself as a young man, “In my senior year of high school, one of our teachers had us write out what we wanted to do in ten years. One of my goals was to be an attorney. I graduated in 1994 from high school and was sworn in as an attorney in 2004.” Hicks’ desire to join the legal field began by watching a family friend use the law to help others through pro-bono or low cost legal services. Today Hicks, a Nashville native, is part of the extraordinary litigation team at Rizio & Nelson located in Riverside and Santa Ana California.
“When I started with Rizio & Nelson, I never could have known that it would become one of the most well-known plaintiff personal injury firms in the state,” Hicks said. “In fact, after last year, we are now known nationally. Much of our recent growth and publicity is because we obtained the largest personal injury verdict in Riverside County history. At $57.9 million dollars, it was also the largest verdict in the State of California for 2014, and the second largest verdict in the nation.”
More importantly, Hicks points out, “I absolutely love my job and the people I work with. I cannot imagine being anywhere else. I hope I work here for the rest of my life.”
“The road to my current position was tough. But it was worth it,” Hicks said, acknowledging the challenges he faced as a new attorney and during law school. “During my second year of law school, my father passed away suddenly over the Thanksgiving break, right before finals,” Hicks recalled. “I had to return to Nashville for his funeral and upon my return to San Diego, many of my friends pooled together and shared their outlines with me and helped me study for exams. The school was also great about letting me make-up the exams I missed at later dates. Although I considered transferring to a law school back in Tennessee, after that outpouring of affection, I knew that I didn’t want to go anywhere else. It is truly a family atmosphere.”
After the bar, Hicks sharpened his skills working for firms dealing with healthcare liens, criminal defense, and personal injury. Before joining Rizio & Nelson, Hicks also practiced in Tennessee to be closer to family.
“Being a personal injury trial attorney is a very exciting and rewarding job. Personal injury cases can happen to anyone in all walks of life. I have the pleasure of representing great people that have been civilly wronged and family members of those passed on. I wake up every morning going into battle to make sure that they are protected and receive the best outcome possible to their case, whether that be a settlement or a jury trial,” Hicks explained. “The most rewarding part of my job is the ability to make a difference in someone’s life. In my 11 years of practicing law, I have had countless clients thank me for bettering their lives. You cannot put a price on that!”
Hicks attributes his success, in part, to doing something he is passionate about and encourages recent grads to do the same, “Do what you love. If you want to be a research attorney, go be a research attorney. If you like litigation, then be a trial attorney. You just have to get out there and network and hustle. No one is going to come knocking on your door to hire you.”
Although Hicks emphasizes the need for recent grads to be proactive, he also reaches out to the Thomas Jefferson community as a mentor and Alumni Association board member. “Stay involved with Thomas Jefferson even after graduation,” he urges. “I also serve on the Alumni Association Board of Directors and have made lifelong friendships and connections from different graduating classes that I would have never met. As an Orange County resident, we have started a monthly networking mixer to strengthen our alumni base up here. The more you put in to this school, the more you will get back from it.”
Hicks evidences his willingness to give back to the Thomas Jefferson community members by inviting them to use him as a resource, “I would like to let the Thomas Jefferson graduates and students know that if they ever have any questions regarding personal injury cases, or any cases in general that I can help, I am available to answer them anytime.”
“It is also important to be actively involved in associations that benefit California attorneys,” Hicks said. “I have always tried to get involved in organizations, especially tailored to my areas of practice. Every area of law has an organization to belong to. Join that organization and meet the members. For me, as a personal injury trial attorney, attending annual conventions for CAOC – Consumer Attorneys of California or other organizations such as CAALA or CAOIE, have helped me become a better trial attorney, simply by investing my time with these groups and becoming associated with such a variety of amazing attorneys. Get involved. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or help from other attorneys. We were all brand new at one point and older lawyers love to help out new ones.”
“Don’t get discouraged if you are not at the top of your class,” Hicks added. “You can still be successful if you work hard. I buckled down and studied very hard for the bar and passed on my first try, even though I didn’t have the best of grades. During law school, they had a saying: “A students become professors, B students become judges and C students become rich.” I strived to be a C student.”
Lastly, Hicks reminds recent grads, “The most important advice that I can give is to have a balance between your work life and personal life. As lawyers, we work long hours and have stressful days, however it is important to leave your work at work as much as possible and spend quality time with your family at home; finding a job that allows you to do that is vital to your mental health.”