Honorable Cara Lee T. Neville is a Minnesota Life Fellow and current Chair of the Fellows. She now serves as President and founder of Benchmark National ADR, LLC in Minneapolis, MN.
How did you become a Fellow?
I actually don’t know who nominated me, but I do recall that after we finished a Board of Governors meeting of the Minnesota State Bar Association, one of the stalwarts of the bar asked me if I intended to join The Fellows. I thought he meant for lunch. I demurred saying I had a new baby at home so I would have to take a rain check. The next morning I received the most impressive invitation to join The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation. I was totally embarrassed.
Can you share with us your favorite Fellows Event?
The Fellows dinners at the ABA Midyear Meeting used to be a black tie affair. It was always impressive to see all the important people walking around in tuxes and beautiful dresses. When I became State Chair of the Fellows in Minnesota, my first meeting was at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and it was a black tie event. Everyone loved it. It was so much fun and everyone felt and looked very special. It was a huge success and great fun.
What are you most looking forward to this year as Chair of the Fellows of the ABF?
I am really excited about this year! We have a great group of officers, and although we will miss our long time successful director, Robert Nelson, we are all excited about our new directorAjay Mehrotra. There is a palpable excitement. The Fellows are going to do something different this year starting with a Strategic Planning Committee. In addition to our officers, Michael Byowitz, Rew Goodenow, and Kathleen Hopkins, we are honored to add Reggie Turner, Judy Martinez, Herb Dixon, and Josh Markus to our Strategic Planning Committee. Each member of this “dream team” will then chair a subcommittee of very impressive members of the Fellows to look at what we do, how we do it and to see how we can do it even better. You will hear more about them and their work later. It is very exciting and we are grateful for their time and energy!
You have had a lengthy and varied career in the law. What practice area did you enjoy most?
I am one of those lucky people who always likes whatever I am doing at the time that I’m doing it. I loved trying cases. I loved the court room. I love the law and lawyers. I loved being a judge. It was intellectually interesting every day. Now, I love serving as a special master, arbitrator, and mediator because I still work with the law and lawyers. What could be better? I guess they are all an extension of one another. I still look forward to my work every day. My two sons are lawyers now too, which makes for very interesting dinner conversations.
What would you have done if you hadn’t become a lawyer?
I cannot imagine not being a lawyer. I wrote my first paper on wanting to become a lawyer in 9th grade! My father, a businessman, was very competent. The only time I saw him in need of anyone else’s help was when he worked with his lawyer. I always thought I would take over the business so I figured I would short cut the process and become a lawyer myself. That was very unusual for a girl in those days. My teacher asked me to come up with a second choice. I don’t think I had one.
What do you do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?
I ride and show American Saddlebred horses, Five-Gaited. I started showing when I was 5, and at 12, Walt Disney made a film about me that they used to show on the Mickey Mouse Club TV show. Last year, I was surprised and thrilled to win the Tristate and the Minnesota Saddlebred Horse Association’s Year End High Point Trophies in the Five-Gaited Amateur and Open divisions. My horse goes really fast and it’s very exciting.