LEADERSHIP IN LAW 2016: Neha M. Matta

Associate, Lewis Wagner LLP, Indianapolis; University of Cincinnati College of Law, 2010

May 4, 2016

Neha Matta is a skilled lawyer and valued colleague in her firm’s litigation practice group, where she has already tried five jury trials. Before joining the firm, she worked as associate in-house counsel at Travelers and managed a variety of third-party liability claims. Watching her mother’s endless advocacy for her brother, who is severely autistic, has inspired her to help other women who are fighting for their families. Neha is active in many community organizations, including Dress for Success and the Junior League of Indianapolis.

matta-neha-15col.jpg (IL photo/Eric Learned)

How has your in-house experience helped in your current practice?

My in-house experience at Travelers provided me with a solid foundation for my current practice. I managed a significant caseload independently and litigated cases through trial. I was lucky to gain tremendous litigation and trial experience at the onset of my career.

Are the opportunities decling for lawyers to sharpen litigation skills?

In some sense, yes. Ninety-nine percent of all cases settle before trial because most often, settlement is seen to be the most cost-effective approach to resolution. This especially affects younger lawyers who are trying to cultivate their trial practice skill set. With that said, everything we do — whether it’s written discovery, depositions, or mediations — are opportunities in and of themselves to sharpen our abilities to analyze and persuasively argue for our client’s best interests.

What excites you about your practice?

The fact scenarios that we deal with are always interesting, challenging and diverse. It forces you to be quick on your feet and involves a lot of mental stimulation to resolve complex claims. Making a persuasive (yet civil) argument on behalf of your client can be very rewarding.

What’s something about you not many people know?

A few years ago, I trekked the Annapurna Loop. Annapurna is a mountain range in Central Nepal. The trek rises to an altitude of 5,400 meters (almost 18,000 feet). It has been voted one of the best long-distance treks in the world and it lives up to the hype. It was the most difficult but the most amazing thing I have ever done. It took around 10 days to get to the peak and three days to return to civilization!

You’re currently involved in the IndyBar’s Bar Leader Series. What’s been the most important lesson you’ve learned so far?

I have learned that leaders are created by dedication and resilience. The program emphasizes that leadership is the ability to energize and engage the people around you (whether it be the community or your employees) in order to reach the goals that you are striving to achieve.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

Realistically, I would probably be a high school teacher, teaching English literature and U.S. history. Ideally, I would be doing something in the music industry or be a professional guitarist even though I have absolutely no musical talent whatsoever! One can dream, right?!

What is the most important lesson you learned from your mentor?

I can’t pick just one! Follow your curiosity. Strive for the stars. Have confidence in yourself. Never forget where you came from. Be humble and live to help others.

Why practice in the area of law you do?

Since childhood, I always wanted to be an attorney and fight for people who have been “wronged.” As a defense lawyer, there is a great satisfaction about defending others from overzealous claims and needless blame. It is rewarding to stand up for my clients and give them a voice against the allegations asserted against them.

Where do you see yourself in 20 years?

I see myself still practicing law, giving back to the community, raising a family, and hopefully traveling the world!

What will the legal profession look like in 15 years?

Technology will continue to shape and change the legal field. The ability to establish in-person relationships with outside counsel and judges will be even more difficult.

What is one misconception people tend to have about what you do for a living?

The legal community is pretty collegial and civil to one another and does not fit the stereotypical mold that is generally associated with lawyers. I tend to agree that our practice is naturally adversarial, and that is probably why lawyers tend to get a bad rap.


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