For generations, the men in the Gaba family have either practiced law or medicine, and when it came time for Jeffrey Gaba (J.D. ’86) to choose a route for graduate school, his choice was clear.
“My grandfather was a Supreme Court Judge in the Philippines, and my father was a physician,” Jeffrey said. “I grew up in an Asian family where you had to choose between becoming a doctor or a lawyer. When I got to Emory, I realized I wasn’t really scientifically oriented. That definitely pushed me toward law school, but it was the best decision of my life.”
Like his father, who played tennis at Emory, Nick Gaba (J.D. ’15), who played soccer at Case Western Reserve University, began his undergraduate career on a pre-med path, but after taking the program’s preliminary classes, decided to shift his courses to the pre-law path.
“As I started to take classes in it, I realized that it could be a good career for me because of the lifelong exposure I had from my father,” Nick said. “Ultimately, it came down to seeing a role model of mine for my entire life. To be able to follow in his career footsteps would be extremely exciting.”
Their paths only continued to mirror each other—both chose to attend law school in Atlanta at Georgia State.
Jeffrey was a part of the second class to graduate from the College of Law, while Nick was part of the last class to graduate before the move to the new law building in 2015. However, both say the personal relationships formed in law school are among their fondest memories of the experience.
“There was a real comradery between the professors at the time and us,” Jeffrey said. “We had parties and dinners at their houses. They were very approachable. It was a great experience. I loved it. I had more fun in law school than I did doing my undergrad Emory.”
One advantage Nick had over his father in school was his father’s own experience as a lawyer.
“The insight he was able to provide was the more realistic impression of what it takes to be successful,” Nick said. “It’s very much what you put into it. The practice is by no means an overnight transition into success. He reminded me of that as I went into everything. Law school is just the start of putting it all to use to figure out if you can succeed at it.”
After practicing as in-house counsel for one of Georgia’s largest thrift institutions, serving as a staff attorney for a government entity and working as a private practitioner, Jeffrey joined the firm of Gregory, Doyle, Calhoun & Rogers in 2008 and became the practice group leader of the firm’s Government & Real Estate practice.
Though Jeffrey got to that point without a parent in the legal community to pave the way, Jeffrey made sure Nick took full advantage of his connections.
“I put him in front of the best lawyers I knew to help teach him the craft,” Jeffrey said. “I wished I had that. I saw other law students whose fathers were lawyers or judges, and it seemed like they had it a lot easier going through.”
Though Jeffrey said he had no hesitancy in bringing Nick into the firm, he admitted there are some challenges, both as a boss and a father.
“He has to work twice as hard to prove himself,” Jeffrey said. “I don’t think it’s hurt him, but it’s something I’ve thought about. As a father, it can be hard to watch him have to jump through the hoops to move up in the firm. As his father, I think he deserves it, but it’s also nice that I can be there to help him take this as a lesson in patience.”
Nick has worked directly under Jeffrey since being hired, and despite the occasional father-son challenges, both said the experience has only made their relationship stronger.
“It adds a new dynamic to our relationship,” Nick said. “Throughout life, your parents can become very close friends. You learn different life lessons from your father growing up as far as becoming a man. To continue to learn from him as a well-respected member of the bar and a well-respected lawyer, those legal lessons are equally invaluable.”
Written by Alex Resnak