Nekia Hackworth Jones, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Atlanta. Photo by John Disney/ALM Nekia Hackworth Jones, Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough, Atlanta. Photo by John Disney/ALM

Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough has landed federal prosecutor Nekia Hackworth Jones as a partner for its growing white-collar practice.

“When Nekia left Nelson Mullins to go to the Department of Justice in 2008 it was our hope that one day she would return to the firm. We are thrilled that day has come,” said S. Wade Malone, who leads Nelson Mullins’ Atlanta business litigation team.

Hackworth Jones started out at Nelson Mullins (after Harvard Law School and a federal clerkship) before joining the Northern District in 2008 as an assistant U.S. attorney.

She went to Washington in 2015 to work for then-Deputy Attorney General Sally Yates as, progressively, senior counsel, associate deputy attorney general and executive director of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, before returning to Atlanta a year ago.

“I first came to know Nekia when she was a freshman on the Therrell High School Mock Trial Team in 1991, which I helped coach with Comer Yates, Sally Yates, Ron Dixon and David Nutter,” Malone said. “For Nekia and I now to be law partners 27 years later is an incredible thing.”

Hackworth Jones was a member of the third class of high school interns to participate in the Atlanta Bar Association’s Summer Law Internship Program.

Malone started the program, called SLIP, in 1993 with Comer Yates (Sally Yates’ husband), Terrence Croft and Tom Wamsley after the Atlanta bar adopted Therrell High School for public service work.

“That was the start of everything that followed,” Hackworth Jones said. “It was my first job and the first time I put on a suit every day.”

“I saw what lawyers do in real life, not on TV—and that it was larger than bailing a client out or solving a problem for them. It was serving the community and doing things the right way,” she continued.

At the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Atlanta, Hackworth Jones started out in the violent crimes unit, handling everything from criminal street gangs to public corruption, before working in the economic crimes unit on health care, securities and tax fraud investigations.

“In Washington I got out of the courtroom into more of a policy role,” she said, working on issues ranging from federal prison reform to Indian Country.

Sally Yates was the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Georgia until she was tapped by the Obama administration in 2015 for the DOJ post. She was fired by the Trump administration a year ago for refusing to enforce its new immigration policy.

Hackworth Jones said her departure from Washington was not tied to the change in administration. “I was there on a reassignment, so my time was up,” she said, adding that she’d commuted during her time there back to Atlanta where her husband and two children were.

“It was time to come back home to my family,” she said.

Back in Atlanta, Hackworth Jones has focused on financial fraud. She won a jury verdict on Tuesday in a health care fraud case against the owner of two eye care clinics, Matilda Prince, who used Medicaid and Medicare numbers obtained under false premises from patients to bill the agencies for work that was never done.

The jury returned a guilty verdict on 29 counts of false billing after a two-and-a-half-day trial before Judge Richard Story.

While Hackworth Jones has roots at Nelson Mullins, the firm is also investing in its white-collar practice. “That’s why I’m here,” she said.

“Nelson Mullins is really entrepreneurial. Attorneys are able to build a practice that reflects their skill sets, passions and desires,” Hackworth Jones said.

The firm, based in Columbia, South Carolina, hired Bart Daniel, the former U.S. attorney for South Carolina, in September to head its white-collar and government investigations team.

That was followed by the addition of former U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement lawyer Thomas Ferrigno from Brown Rudnick in October, and the hire of Samuel Rosenthal in November from Squire Patton Boggs in D.C. Rosenthal served in the DOJ’s Criminal Division as chief of the appellate section.

Nelson Mullins has grown rapidly over the last decade, ranking No. 88 in terms of revenue on the Am Law 100.

“In the 10 years that I’ve been gone, the firm continued to promote things that are important to me, such as diversity, community service and pro bono work,” Hackworth Jones said.

“Wade is an example of that kind of commitment. I am a testament to that,” she added.

BRIEFLY

Kevin O’Mahony has joined McLain & Merritt in Buckhead to lead its health care department, representing providers in litigation and transactions. O’Mahony was the lead health care lawyer for Miller & Martin’s Atlanta office from 2015 to 2017, after spending most of his career at his own firms, O’Mahony & Vancil and Allen McCain & O’Mahony.

Bryan Cave has added Jason Beckham as counsel in its financial services practice from Seyfarth Shaw. Beckham represents bank holding companies, other financial institutions, corporate borrowers and funds in private finance transactions.

Carlton Fields Jorden Burt has hired D. Barret Broussard as an associate in the business litigation practice from Greenberg Traurig. Broussard also served as a staff attorney for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. He is a 2013 graduate of Emory University School of Law.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Britt Grant has been elected to the American Law Institute, a national organization that produces scholarly work, such as model codes, to clarify, modernize and improve the law. Grant, 39, was appointed to the state Supreme Court Jan. 1 by Gov. Nathan Deal. She was previously solicitor general for Georgia.