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Leadership in Law 2014: Sue A. Shadley

Partner, Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, Indianapolis • Indiana University Maurer School of Law, 1977

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15col-Shadley.jpg Sue A. Shadley (IL photo/Eric Learned)

There may not be any one person who has had more influence over the development of modern environmental law in Indiana than Sue A. Shadley. She served as an attorney and administrative law judge in the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and was appointed the first chief legal counsel for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. She moved into private practice in 1988 when she, George Plews and George Pendygraft formed Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP. She has been a mentor to many at the firm and a strong advocate for women in the law. Sue retired at the end of 2013.

When you began practicing, the number of female lawyers was still relatively small. In the 1970s and 1980s, you held a number of key environmental positions for the state. Did you feel like you were breaking ground at the time?

Yes. I often felt like government was the only place a woman lawyer would be hired in 1977 when I graduated. I did work in developing new programs in surface coal mining and at IDEM, and it was very rewarding to be there at the beginning.

You’ve been inducted into the National Solid Waste Management Association’s Indiana Hall of Fame. How did you get into the practice area of solid and hazardous waste law?

My first job after 10 years working for the state in environmental programs was with Waste Management and Chemical Waste Management. The state was rewriting its solid waste rules for the first time in 12 years. I got very involved in the rule rewrite and did solid and hazardous waste law for my employer and continued to represent them when we started our law firm.

How has environmental law changed since you started practicing?

My area of solid waste has become very inactive. The companies have learned what they need to do; there are very few enforcement actions; the amount of disposal capacity has increased such that landfills are not expanding and do not need new permits.

What’s been the biggest change in the overall practice of law you’ve seen since you began?

It is the number of women attorneys.

What class do you wish you could have skipped in law school?

I cannot think of one. Environmental law has been so interesting because it involves so many other areas of law – property law, insurance, taxes, constitutional law, oral advocacy, civil procedure, criminal law. I believe I have used all the courses I took in law school.

What’s something about you not many people know?

I have traveled to Africa three times on game viewing vacations.

Is there a moment in your career you wish you could do over?

No, I am thrilled with how my law career developed. I would not change a thing.

If you couldn’t be a lawyer, what would you do for a living?

Work in animal conservation.
 
Who is your favorite fictional lawyer?


Mary DiNunzio, law firm Rosato & Associates, author Lisa Scottoline.
 
What was the worst or most memorable job you had prior to becoming an attorney?

Running my own restaurant in my hometown of Hillsboro, Ind., after my first year of college.
 
What’s something you’ve learned over the years that you wish you could go back in time and tell your younger self?

I always worked very hard and very long hours. I sort of burned out, so I might tell myself to work hard, but try to limit my hours in order to not burn out.
 
What are some tips for achieving a work/life balance?

 I am not a good example. I worked 15-18 hour days. My husband worked hard also and we did not have children.  I did not balance work and life well at all.
 
We hear a lot about civility. Have you noticed a change in how attorneys treat each other since you began practice?

Not that much. George Plews, who I started the firm with, is the nicest person and we have always emphasized being civil in our firm.
 
Why do you think people often have negative stereotypes about lawyers?

It does not seem to be as bad in the environmental law field. I have always believed people wanted and appreciated what I could do for them.
 
What civic cause is the most important to you?

Helping Native Americans, which developed from reading Tony Hillerman books and traveling in the Southwest.


 

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  1. Bill Satterlee is, indeed, a true jazz aficionado. Part of my legal career was spent as an associate attorney with Hoeppner, Wagner & Evans in Valparaiso. Bill was instrumental (no pun intended) in introducing me to jazz music, thereby fostering my love for this genre. We would, occasionally, travel to Chicago on weekends and sit in on some outstanding jazz sessions at Andy's on Hubbard Street. Had it not been for Bill's love of jazz music, I never would have had the good fortune of hearing it played live at Andy's. And, most likely, I might never have begun listening to it as much as I do. Thanks, Bill.

  2. The child support award is many times what the custodial parent earns, and exceeds the actual costs of providing for the children's needs. My fiance and I have agreed that if we divorce, that the children will be provided for using a shared checking account like this one(http://www.mediate.com/articles/if_they_can_do_parenting_plans.cfm) to avoid the hidden alimony in Indiana's child support guidelines.

  3. Fiat justitia ruat caelum is a Latin legal phrase, meaning "Let justice be done though the heavens fall." The maxim signifies the belief that justice must be realized regardless of consequences.

  4. Indiana up holds this behavior. the state police know they got it made.

  5. Additional Points: -Civility in the profession: Treating others with respect will not only move others to respect you, it will show a shared respect for the legal system we are all sworn to protect. When attorneys engage in unnecessary personal attacks, they lose the respect and favor of judges, jurors, the person being attacked, and others witnessing or reading the communication. It's not always easy to put anger aside, but if you don't, you will lose respect, credibility, cases, clients & jobs or job opportunities. -Read Rule 22 of the Admission & Discipline Rules. Capture that spirit and apply those principles in your daily work. -Strive to represent clients in a manner that communicates the importance you place on the legal matter you're privileged to handle for them. -There are good lawyers of all ages, but no one is perfect. Older lawyers can learn valuable skills from younger lawyers who tend to be more adept with new technologies that can improve work quality and speed. Older lawyers have already tackled more legal issues and worked through more of the problems encountered when representing clients on various types of legal matters. If there's mutual respect and a willingness to learn from each other, it will help make both attorneys better lawyers. -Erosion of the public trust in lawyers wears down public confidence in the rule of law. Always keep your duty to the profession in mind. -You can learn so much by asking questions & actively listening to instructions and advice from more experienced attorneys, regardless of how many years or decades you've each practiced law. Don't miss out on that chance.

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