Leadership in Law 2014: Sue A. Shadley

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

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
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.



Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  2. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  3. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.

  4. rensselaer imdiana is doing same thing to children from the judge to attorney and dfs staff they need to be investigated as well

  5. Sex offenders are victims twice, once when they are molested as kids, and again when they repeat the behavior, you never see money spent on helping them do you. That's why this circle continues