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Corporate attorney serves as insurer's litigation counsel

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In-House Counsel

Crown Point attorney Shontrai Irving may be considered a success story in the legal world with multiple awards illustrating his experience in the corporate, criminal, and civil sides of the law.

But that’s only one part of what he does, and while he loves the lawyering, it’s not what makes him the most proud.

Irving has been designated a “dad of the year,” and to him it’s more than a t-shirt or coffee cup slogan. The Indiana Foster Care Adoption Association named him Foster Parent of the Year in 2007, and it’s that role that brings out the most pride and drives everything he does from community service and how he treats people, to the way he serves as an in-house attorney for State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Company’s corporate litigation office.

“Everything has really fallen into place, and it comes together perfectly,” the 36-year-old said. “My philosophy is not just to do it, but do it well.”
 

irving-shontrai-15col Not only does Shontrai Irving work as corporate counsel for the State Farm Insurance Litigation group in the Crown Point office, he’s also been named Indiana Foster Parent of the Year and has received numerous legal and civic awards throughout the state. (Photo Submitted)

As a corporate attorney for State Farm Insurance Litigation for the past five years, Irving says he’s the youngest in the 12-attorney office. The Crown Point office is one of two litigation offices statewide with the other in Indianapolis, and his team handles the northern part of the state. Most of his days involve defending policy holders in auto, fire, or home coverage litigation, he said.

A typical day might start off meeting with clients or the claims department about defending cases, and then Irving says he moves into what any other trial attorney often does – delving into discovery, answering complaints, scheduling depositions, and appearing in court. Most of the cases settle, but Irving said he gets into court at least a couple times a month when the telephonic conferences aren’t used.

Some might consider the job boring, but Irving said he loves it and really enjoys meeting with clients and handling the small claims issues regularly. The litigation counsel often appears in those cases, and he finds it fulfilling being able to help regular people understand their insurance coverage and go through the court process.

His supervisor and mentor, Deanne Sasser, says that Irving has been an asset to the department and she has noticed his attitude as a lawyer and person have boosted the office’s morale and reputation.

“Shontrai has been a breath of fresh air,” she said. “The small claims court is like the people’s court, and from an insurance company lawyer’s perspective, it usually doesn’t go as well there because it’s more focused on the plaintiff. But Shontrai has the best record of winning small claims because of his positive attitude and motivation for people. I don’t know how he does it, but he does it so well.”

Aside from those small claims issues, Irving also handles more severe cases that resulted in personal injury or death, and those cases often involve probate issues. Generally, Indiana doesn’t have as many cases litigated as do other states with different insurance coverage structures, he said.

“Just like a slogan, State Farm is there,” Irving says, reciting the company mission about helping people manage risks and recover from unexpected happenings. “It’s important to work for a company with that mission, to promote that mission not only for State Farm but for lawyers in general.”

Graduating in 2003 from what is now the Indiana University Maurer School of Law, Irving began his legal career working for the Lake County Prosecutor’s Office as a deputy prosecutor. He also has a master’s degree in criminal justice and said that his first job was something he was passionate about.

“I’ve always been fascinated by crimes, how and why they are committed and how people can be rehabilitated,” Irving said. “I really enjoyed being in the prosecutor’s office, because it gave me the opportunity to be in court every day. To get to know the judges and what was and wasn’t appropriate for the attorneys.”

But wanting to explore the civil side of the law, Irving said he spoke to some friends and colleagues and decided it would be beneficial to get experience in other non-criminal areas of the law.

“I saw it as a way to learn another area of law and become more marketable,” he said.

Aside from his legal work, Irving said his biggest accomplishment has been taking on the role of a foster dad in the past four years. When he was a deputy prosecutor, Irving said he went with his mom – a registered foster mother just as his aunt is – to take some foster parenting classes. He recalls being reluctant because he had just gotten out of school and didn’t want to jump back into a classroom. Since his prosecutor job at the time involved handling child abuse and neglect cases, Irving decided to start the classes and says he found the two coincided really well.

“I thought it made me a better prosecutor at the time. But then, I wanted to make more of a difference and become a foster parent myself,” he said.

Living with his grandmother at the time, Irving wanted to foster one child. The state foster agency asked him about taking an 8-year-old boy and that child’s 6-year-old brother, and he agreed. Only later was it discovered that the two boys also had a 5-year-old brother and 2-year old sister, and the agency wanted to keep them all together if possible.

Now, the three boys and one girl remain together and their ages range from 12 to 6. But they aren’t the only ones that Irving has influenced. To date, he’s provided a home to more than 20 children.

“That has changed my life forever,” he says about being a foster parent. “It keeps a smile on the face when you’re at work, and that’s my motivation.”

His role as a foster parent has earned him some of the recognition and awards that he’s most proud of, which come on top of those for his involvement in the legal profession. Most recently, the Indiana State Bar Association selected Irving as the attorney to receive the 2010 Outstanding Young Lawyer Award and he adds that to his resume of receiving the Hon. Viola J. Taliaferro Award in 2008 and other recognition from the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, and the General Assembly – among many others.

Irving believes that mentoring, diversity, and pro bono work are all important, and he’s tried to bring that belief to his position at State Farm.

Not knowing what’s next, Irving says he is just enjoying what his corporate counsel position offers him, and he wants to be a role model for his children.

“At work and home you want to give your best, and it’s really helpful to have a strong team at home and at the office,” he said.•

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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