When it comes to winning legal arguments, attorney Vicki Maniatis knows a thing or two about preparation and tenacity. But her preparation and tenacity doesn’t stop at the courtroom steps. When not charging forward against big pharmaceutical companies on behalf of those injured by bad drugs, Maniatis has been outside training for a 2.4 mile swim in cold waters, a 112-mile bike ride through forests and mountains, and capping it off with a 26.2-mile run past a waterfall and into a quaint village to the finish for that beast of a race called an Ironman.
And finish she did. On August 18, 2013, Maniatis, a first-time Ironman participant, conquered the Ironman North American Championship Mont-Treblant in Quebec, Canada, in 16 hours and six minutes.
“As a first-time competitor, my goal was just to finish the race,” Maniatis said. “I had stomach problems during the marathon portion of the race that slowed me down significantly, but I finished anyway.”
Maniatis, 45, is not only a lawyer, but the mother of an 8-year-old son, Alex. She loves being a mom and a lawyer, but since high school, sports have also played a big role in her life.
“One day when I was in high school, I watched the television show Wide World of Sports,” Maniatis said. “That inspired me to run one myself.”
Years later, Maniatis ran the New York City Marathon in 2005 after her son was born. Why then? “Partly to get back into shape!” Maniatis said. “But also because it was just time to do it.”
With the NYC Marathon checked off her bucket list, Maniatis then turned her attention to triathlons. “I had caught the bug, and triathlon was my next outlet. I honestly did not know if my body could hold up to an Ironman, but I needed to try.”
How do you train for an Ironman when you are a parent with a very demanding career? In her typical fashion, Maniatis broke down the complexity into manageable components, analyzing her strengths and weaknesses and crafting a training schedule to maximize her performance.
“I began my Ironman training a season before by training a few days a week, early mornings, often pre-dawn,” Maniatis explained. “I typically ran two days a week, cycled once or twice a week and swam in a lake for open water swimming practice only once a week. I’m a weak swimmer and since swimming is the shortest part of the race, logic dictates investing in cycling and running.”
Surprisingly, during the race, the swimming portion inspired Maniatis. “My weakest event went very well and I was psyched for the cycling– my strongest event,” Maniatis said. “The first loop of the two 56-mile bike loop course was great! Olympians were zipping past me but I was holding my own and right on my target.
“The second half of the bike ride …. was humbling,” Maniatis said. “The hills I had seen on the first loop were definitely twice as long, three times as steep, it was hotter, it was windier and I was tired physically and mentally. I can’t say I ever entertained the idea of quitting, but I did question if I could finish in the allotted time. I did want to stop.”
Maniatis, has been involved in athletics since childhood, inspired by her parents, who were both runners, and growing up in Bernardsville, New Jersey, a town that embraced running.
Always a self-starter and independent thinker, Maniatis taught herself how to hurdle as a sophomore in high school. “In my senior year I ended up being undefeated in dual meets in the 100 meter hurdles,” Maniatis said. “I had a very unconventional style that other coaches tried to beat out of me, but my coach said, ‘Leave her alone – she gets the job done and she wins.’”
That positive mental attitude and unconventional approach to athletics carried over into Maniatis’ legal career, which she started preparing for in elementary school.
“In 3rd Grade I decided I wanted to be a lawyer,” Maniatis said. “ I then ‘represented’ the interests of the other kids in my apartment building being bullied by Alan, a 4th grader. I decided it didn’t matter how scared I was. I was shaking but I yelled at him and told him he was weak and mean for picking on little kids. Like most bullies, he was speechless and stopped and I was a big hero in Martha Lee Apartments.”
Representing her group of elementary school friends was just a start of some of her unconventional legal preparation. “Then I took six years of Latin in Junior High and High School,” Maniatis added, “because I was sure it would help me understand the law.”
Maniatis became a lawyer in 1993, and started out as a defense attorney, gaining valuable insight into defense tactics. “When I first switched to the plaintiffs’ side, I was referred to as ‘the secret weapon’ because I knew what the other side was up to. And I could realistically evaluate cases and negotiate because I understood the defense side.”
That broad legal background and Maniatis’ unique means of preparation now helps those injured by drugs to stand up to big pharmaceutical bullies. It is not an easy job, but it is one that Maniatis relishes and one that she is quite good at.
“The way I see it, I have had multi-discipline training in both law and sports,” Maniatis said. “And it has served me and my clients very well.”
Maniatis is on leadership committees in multiple national pharmaceutical litigations. These include litigation involving the drugs Fosamax and Propecia, and a medical product, Transvaginal Mesh. She will be speaking on the link between statin drugs and diabetes at the upcoming Mass Torts Made Perfect legal conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Maniatis has always enjoyed competition, whether in athletics or in the courtroom. “Athletic competition and my training for it have taught me to trust myself and my instincts,” Miniatis said. “It has given me confidence both in law and in life.”
And there is another trick up this warrior’s sleeve. “I keep away from negative people and negative forces,” Maniatis confided. Anything else? You probably heard this from your mother, but Maniatis proves it. “Eating well and sleeping right keep the mind and body strong. And you must find or make time for things you enjoy… I just happen to enjoy triathlon!”