Whether in the court room, or in the community, her top priority is people.
“Time is the most precious gift, people are precious, I am one who invests my time in people.”
Eulanda Lynn Matthews has lived those words with her life helping people in legal matters and so much more.
The youngest of seven, Matthews is originally from Evanston, Illinois and came to California around the age of 8-or-9-years-old where she attended Crescent Heights Elementary School and Louis Pasteur Middle School, which would later become LACES (The Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies). She would go on to attend and graduate from Los Angeles High School. Matthews was involved in student government and was student body president the year of her graduation.
Matthews attended the University of California, Los Angeles and graduated class of ’81. While at UCLA, she studied political science and many around her believed she was headed to the political scene. She was told by a mentor that studying law would serve her well in politics. She shared some early thoughts about what she wanted to be when she was a kid.
“I was probably thinking about something in entertainment,” said Matthews, laughing. “And then, settling down, I guess I began to realize that I wanted to do something to help other folk.”
“Law would be a way to do that.”
She continued, “Former City Councilman Dave Cunningham, God rest his soul, told me that a background in law would be a good fit for any elected official.”
After UCLA, Matthews took the LSAT and applied to several schools, ultimately attending then UC Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, graduating in 1984.
During her last semester of Law School, Matthews did an externship with U.S. District Court Judge Terry J. Hatter, Jr. She remembered his mentorship, the impression it left on her and the experience she gained.
“That was a really great experience,” said Matthews, “I learned a lot under his tutelage and I’m grateful for that experience.”
With a law degree in hand, Matthews set her sights abroad in practicing law and ended up returning to where it all started — home.
“I got my first job offer back home, in Chicago and left Los Angeles in 1984, moved back to Evanston, Illinois, took the bar exam and practiced law there for roughly two and half years,” said Matthews.
She worked for the Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago, helping individuals who couldn’t afford a civil attorney. She represented clients who were dealing with housing discrimination, landlord and tenant disputes, social security and unemployment issues, family and marital disputes and other civil matters. It was working with legal assistance that Matthews helped to change Illinois law by helping children receive benefits based on acknowledged paternity.
“That was my greatest outcome as a lawyer to know now it doesn’t matter whether the parents were married if there was an acknowledgement,” said Matthews. “That was really a special time to know that you were making a difference for folk.”
Cold winters and thin blood, as Matthews shared, brought her back to Cali sunshine and helping more people in need. Matthews took another bar exam to practice law in Los Angeles in 1987. In the meantime, waiting on her bar results, she worked for the law offices of Gloria Brimberry. Later on, she came across an ad for a position at Ivie & McNeill.
“I took an interview, and low and behold, walked into that office at 5443 West Washington and it was people who looked like me,” said Matthews. “It was an African American-owned law firm, I was like, ‘ok.’”
Hired by the late Robert McNeill as a law clerk, and later passing the bar in Los Angeles, Matthews would go on to accept a position as an attorney at the firm. The firm would later become Ivy, McNeill & Wyatt, where Matthews would continue “helping folks.”
There, she added to her already impressive resume client relations and development, litigating and trial experience, but she shared one of the most important aspects that she learned working at the firm. “I think community relations and the importance of being engaged with the bar association and having a face in the community,” said Matthews.
During her tenure there, she was president of the Black Women Lawyers Association of Los Angeles, the California Association of Black Lawyers and the John M. Langston Bar Association. Matthews shared how she witnessed the firm grow into one of the most prominent firms on the West Coast today.
“Through involvement in the bar association, of course, that widened our importance, scope and net as a firm,” said Matthews. “The firm opened up opportunities for us to attend national bar association conferences.”
She shared in 2015, then Ivy, McNeill Wyatt, hosted one of those national conferences. They hosted the Welcome to L.A. Convention, which brought Black attorneys and judges from around the country, getting a chance to both network and learn about the firm. Now, Ivie, McNeill, Wyatt, Purcell & Diggs, the firm continues to set the bar of legal excellence as a multi-cultural firm for the community at large and globally.
Matthews retired from practicing law in 2022, bringing her 35-year tenure at the firm to an end. But she actually refers to herself as “semi-retired” as opportunity came knocking in the form of a new position. L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell appointed her commissioner on the Assessment Appeals Board of Los Angeles.
“We are a neutral body, it’s a quasi-judicial position,” said Matthews. “Our task is to decide tax appeals for the County of L.A.
“That’s my new gig.”
Her new gig has some stiff competition, you could say her years of being an attorney had some stiff competition as Matthews had another ongoing passion project for years. While in law school, up in San Francisco, Matthews began running as a form of stress relief.
“That’s how I got into running as a form of keeping a healthy body, relieving stress, having time to think and just unwind,” she said.
She has run a total of 19 marathons including running the L.A. Marathon consecutively since 2007. Last year, she ran a marathon in Cape Town, South Africa, which she described as an “awesome experience.” This year she would run in not one, not two, but three marathons – in March the L.A. Marathon, in Septembe, the Marathon du Médoc in France, and back home to Illinois to run in the Chicago marathon.
When she isn’t running and working on the L.A. Assessment Appeals Board, she’s lending her time to organizations near and dear to her heart such as the Special Needs Network, Children Youth and Family Collaborative, Ignited Light Ministries, My Friend’s House and Black Girls Run Los Angeles. She is also a member of the Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and the Harbor Area CA Chapter of the Links, Inc. Matthews shared that it’s her faith that’s at the center of it all.
“I jumpstart my mornings by participating in a prayer line ministry, Hannah’s Descendants Prayer Line, Monday through Friday and on Fridays with my church prayer ministry, Holman United Methodist Church morning prayer group,” said Matthews.
“I’m a woman of faith. I know and love the Lord and that’s what keeps me grounded. No matter what may be going on in my life, good or bad, to know I’m a King’s kid and that God loves me no matter what — that allows me to press through but, more importantly, allows me to have a joy and a peace.”
What do you get when you combine a lawyer, warrior and an angel?
You get Eulanda Matthews.