by Kathy Gaillard
N. Lynnette McNeely never had to look far for positive role models; she found the perfect mentors and role models right in her home — her mother and father.
“My father was an attorney and I grew up watching him not only engaged in his career, but being involved with and giving back to his community, and my mom is a computer programmer who has also remained active with volunteer service, community programs, soup kitchens, the Red Cross, etc.
“They met at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater – they were in a class in advance mathematics together. I always teased them about being two nerds who fell in love in math class and married.” said McNeely.
She said her parents were classic overachievers. “They were so involved and focused on giving back to the community and working to make Milwaukee, Wisconsin a better place for everyone. That’s the world that I grew up in, that’s what shaped me, and that’s what I do now—work to give back,” said McNeely.
A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, McNeely received her Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and worked for a short time as an Actuarial Analyst for Mercer, Inc. Eventually, she became consumed with computer technology and worked her way into a vibrant career as a systems analyst consultant for large corporations in the Milwaukee area.
During the Y2K frenzy, where everyone was concerned about the ramifications of and legal issues surrounding Y2K, McNeely decided that it might be a good idea to get ahead of the game and be on top of these issues, so she enrolled in law school and received her juris doctorate.
An overachiever herself, McNeely continued working full-time while she earned her law degree. Currently Ms. McNeely is an active legal practitioner and also an adjunct professor for law and computer technology at DeVry University’s Milwaukee Campus.
McNeely considers herself to be an ordinary person who is not doing anything particularly extraordinary with her life. Adamant about ‘not standing’ out, McNeely said that she does not like to celebrate herself or her successes, but rather gets more out of life by helping people, her community and her church. “God gives us challenges and opportunities, so that we can help and benefit others.”
She enjoys empowering people in the Milwaukee Community through her work as an attorney and adjunct professor. “I really want to help people figure out this thing that we call ‘life’… not preach to them, but help them to understand that if they are happy, free and alert to life and all it’s possibilities, then they can achieve their dreams, and that they should not limit themselves by what others have dictated their lives’ to be,” said McNeely.
McNeely exemplifies modesty. Not one to talk about herself, you have to read between the lines of conversation to discover that this accomplished and credentialed young woman is semi-fluent in Spanish, is a world traveler and is very involved in her community.
Over the years, she has grown through participation with organizations such as the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., YMCA’s One-on-One Program, Upward Bound in Madison, Wisconsin, Girl Scouts of America, Red-Cross Disaster Action Team Volunteer, NAACP, Environmental Justice Task Force of Southeastern Regional Planning Committee, Wisconsin Trust Account Foundation, State Bar of Wisconsin Diversity Outreach Committee, Wisconsin Association of African-American Lawyers, Community Benefit Trust Organization, and the State Bar of Wisconsin Board of Governors. It’s apparent that she is enjoying her life’s work and loves to give back, with no fanfare.
McNeely not only loves a good challenge but appears to seek them out and welcomes them with open arms. “That’s why I love math, this subject challenges me; it keep my attention. In that way, life’s challenges are similar to math. You might not get the big picture right away, but you get little wins. You keep coming back to the problem, collecting little wins until you’re finally able to solve the problem. I enjoy looking back over my life and seeing a collection of ‘little wins.’ That gives me the thrust to continue the road forward,” she said.
Wise beyond her years, McNeely says that she is learning what matters in life. She said that, intellectually, she’s known all along that what people think of you cannot matter, it’s what you do with the gifts you’ve been given.
“I cannot afford to think too much about what people think of me, and I cannot be focused on impressing other people. I can only do what I think is right based on my moral compass, education, experience, and wisdom.”
N. Lynnette McNeely may not obsess about impressing others, but others would do well to be impressed with the tenacity, intellect, and caring approach of this second liner. She has already achieved more than many people much older than her do in a lifetime.
She epitomizes one of her favorite quotes from Booker T. Washington, “Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome.”
Attorney McNeely not only faces, but confronts life’s obstacles and leaves them in the dust as she climbs the ladder of success.