Harley Yancey’s relationships with his family and community are deeply important to him, and his life and career are proof.
After the Rome, Georgia, native graduated from UGA with an undergraduate degree in management information systems, he wasn’t sure what he wanted to do.
“My dad didn’t graduate from college. My grandfather didn’t go to college,” Yancey said. “So, graduating from college was an accomplishment.”
Unsure whether to pursue a law degree or M.B.A., he decided to do both and enrolled in Samford University’s joint J.D./M.B.A. program. After his first year he took a summer internship with the Rome-based law firm Brinson Askew Berry, and he said it was “such a meaningful and impactful experience that I fell in love with law and the practice of law and the impact it can have in a small town.”
It was then he decided to transfer to UGA.
“I interned with BAB after my 1L year, and the partners were very instrumental in my decision to apply and transfer to Georgia,” he said. “About 75% of the attorneys there graduated from Georgia Law, and it was just a great experience.”
Coming back to Athens as a second-year law student was not without its challenges, though.
“A lot of the relationships and friendships are formed during that first year of law school so it was a little difficult for me, being a transfer student,” he said. “Fortunately, I had some friends who were in school that I knew from undergrad that made it easy to transition and meet some classmates.”
Yancey also had the advantage of having family in the Classic City – both his younger brother and sister were earning their undergraduate degrees while he was in law school.
“Being able to check in and see them on campus while I was still in school, I thought it was really special to have all three of us on campus at the same time,” he said.
After graduating in 2015, Yancey moved back to Rome and rejoined Brinson Askew Berry, where he practiced general litigation with a focus on insurance defense work for three years.
“I learned a lot,” he said. “You have a personal relationship with your clients and their issues, and the cases you work on are local businesses and local families. I really enjoyed that aspect of it.”
In 2018 Yancey said he did a “pivot” in his career and went in-house with State Mutual Insurance Company. He has family ties to the company – his father is president and CEO of the firm and his grandfather previously held the position.
“I’ve got a lot of family history with this company,” he said. “I’ve served on the board for a number of years and now serve as general counsel.”
Yancey said he discovered how valuable his UGA law degree was while in his current role.
In law school he enrolled in Professor Carol Morgan’s (J.D.’79) Business Negotiations class and said, “It has probably been the most beneficial class, for my line of work, in insurance. I can be a zealous advocate for my issues but understanding how to step back and picture the issue from someone else’s shoes … has been really beneficial to me,” he said.
“I think a lot of insurance is about relationships … relationships with policy holders, with agents and re-insurers. Since we’re a relatively small mutual insurer, our business structure relies heavily on relationships and excellent partner and customer service,” he continued. “Being able to understand what each party values and figuring out how to make it work in everyone’s best interest – I took a lot from that class.”
Yancey supports his alma mater so that other law students with a similar background can one day enjoy legal careers. The Yancey Family Scholarship and Harley Yancey Scholarship both assist first-generation college graduates who are from Northwest Georgia or a rural area.
“I’ve really enjoyed giving back and contributing to my hometown, so I’m hoping that these first-gen law students will one day consider giving back to their hometowns or rural, small-town Georgia,” he said.
Ultimately, Yancey hopes to one day run State Mutual Insurance Company and continue its tradition of supporting the community and its customers.
“I don’t think many young kids dream of running insurance companies, but in my family, especially as the third generation, that’s what we talk about at the dinner table. I want to be like my dad, and he wanted to be like his dad. I would love to have the opportunity to run this company and hopefully leave it in a better place than I found it,” he said. “We’re fortunate that State Mutual can have a big impact in this community by donating time and dollars to different organizations, so I’m working to best position myself to lead this company going forward and have a lasting impact in my community and state.”