The Off-Court Mediator and On-Court Competitor

Frederick Jerant Forefront Exclusive, Foresight, From the Forefront Office, Legal Leave a Comment


Through his career and tennis, Neal Winneg learns how to balance his voice of reason and his inner competitor.

By: Fredrick Jerant

Neal S. Winneg began his legal career deep in the minutiae of corporate and securities law, mergers and acquisitions, venture funding and other financing at Skadden Arps. His assignments were usually pretty focused: Help one client with a specific legal concern, and then move on to the next one.

But he didn’t want to be on the corporate sidelines, so he switched to an in-house general counsel position. Winneg got what he wished for – and then some.

His private caseload had consisted of just a handful of cases. In-house, he was juggling scores of issues at once. And his mandate was a lot broader – ensuring legal compliance, enforcing contracts, maintaining intellectual property rights, handling litigation…the list of responsibilities was endless. This was not to mention the tug-of-war among various corporate factions, each with its own goals and agenda, and the inescapable fact that everything had to be viewed through the lens of achieving corporate goals.

Acting as the voice of reason in heated situations is an important duty for a GC, but Winneg sometimes finds it tough.

“One of my duties is to calm people down when their emotions run high, even though I might be just as angry,” he said.

But Winneg has found a great way to blow off steam: He heads to the tennis court.

“When I was seven, I found my dad’s old racket and started hitting balls against the garage door. I took to it quickly and became proficient for a kid. I started beating other players, and I got a lot of satisfaction from it.”

Although it wasn’t nearly as popular as baseball or basketball, Winneg stuck with the sport through high school and resumed playing in law school.

“In the office, I often have to help mediate disputes by helping clients see both sides of an issue, which is not necessarily about winning. But playing tennis is a time when you don’t do any of that. I get a lot of enjoyment in giving my competitive nature full rein.”

Frederick Jerant is a Freelance Writer at Forefront Magazine.

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