Nicole Gardner | Gardner Skelton

Nicole Gardner


Nicole Gardner is an award-winning attorney and founder of Gardner Skelton. Nicole advises and counsels a broad range of businesses and senior executives. She's also a mediator for state and federal employment cases and works for businesses as a neutral investigator of employment-related concerns. Nicole enjoys serving as outside general counsel for many of her clients, engaging and managing a network of attorneys to best serve her clients’ legal needs.
  • University of California at Berkeley, Berkeley Law, J.D., 1999
  • Pennsylvania State University, B.A., 1994
  • North Carolina State Bar
  • South Carolina State Bar
  • U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth and Ninth Circuits
  • U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina
  • U.S. District Courts for the Western, Middle, and Eastern Districts of North Carolina
  • North Carolina Bar Association
  • Mecklenburg County Bar
  • Charlotte Women’s Bar Association
Awards and more
  • Benchmark Litigation US Awards: 2022
  • The Best Lawyers in America: 2014 – present
  • Business North Carolina’s Legal Elite: 2010 – present
  • In 2015, Nicole received the most votes as North Carolina’s top employment lawyer, thus entering her permanently into Legal Elite’s “Hall of Fame”
  • North Carolina Super Lawyers: 2012 – present
  • Top 100 Attorneys: 2019 – 2021, 2023 – present
  • Top 50 Women: 2014 – 2016, 2018 – 2021, 2023 – present
  • North Carolina Rising Stars: 2010 – 2011
  • William J. Fulbright Scholar, South Korea: 1994 – 1995


Nicole is a strategic partner who cares deeply about getting results for the clients she serves. Every business needs something different, so she has no set plan. Instead, Nicole goes the extra mile to understand what clients really want and need. Then, she does everything in her power to deliver. When she provides counsel to a client, she looks at the big picture, not just the law, and considers many non-legal factors that help determine a course of action. Clients understand that risk is ever-present, and they will have a different threshold of tolerance for both overall and certain specific risks. Nicole helps them manage through uncertainty and stay focused on their big picture goals.

Making a Difference

While Nicole is known as a tough legal opponent, she has a big heart when it comes to helping others. Her passion for making a difference in the lives of others and the community extends to numerous organizations to which she dedicates her time and abilities.

Nicole chooses her volunteer opportunities carefully and spends her time where she believes she can maximize her impact. That's how she became involved with Hope Haven. The organization helps people who became homeless while battling substance use disorders by transforming lives in meaningful ways. She eventually chaired the Hope Haven board of directors and served on the Board of the Hope Haven Foundation. Nicole continues to serve the community of people afflicted with substance use disorders as the current Vice Chair of the Board of Anuvia Prevention and Recovery Center.

Nicole's passion for nonprofits has led her to serve for many years as a volunteer attorney for the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits, where she provides pro bono legal advice to small nonprofits on employment and governance issues. Also, as a Type I Diabetic, she's helped with fundraising for many years for JDRF and served on the board for the American Diabetes Association.

As a longtime member of the collective philanthropy organization the Women's Impact Fund (WIF), Nicole has been on grant teams, chaired a committee, served on the board, and more.

Nicole also serves as a youth mentor with Buddy/Mentor Inc., which pairs at-risk youth with members of the community. When Nicole joined the organization, her buddy was in the fourth grade. Now, more than seven years later, Nicole is so proud of her buddy who is a high school junior and an amazing young lady. Service in the Gardner household is a family affair, and both of Nicole’s teenage daughters have signed on to mentor, too.

Even the family’s Newfoundland dog, Fez got into the act. Fez has such a love for people that his obedience trainer encouraged teaching Fez to become a therapy dog. Fez loves the job, and people love him. He's dragged his owners all over town from homeless shelters to hospitals to revel in being the dog everyone wants to pet.

More about Nicole

As if running a successful business, helping clients reach their goals, serving others, and raising three beautiful kids wasn't enough, Nicole's busy household keeps her on her toes. With dogs, cats, chickens and rabbits, there's always someone that needs to be fed, walked, or just loved. When she’s not wrangling kids, pets, the opposing side or her own clients (Nicole says the ones she’s referring to know who they are…) Nicole grabs a good book and finds a quiet place to relax. Having lived in South Korea for two years and traveled extensively in Asia, seeing new places is always on her bucket list. Next up? She’s contemplating Costa Rica, Alaska, the Galapagos, Morocco, and Australia/New Zealand.

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