Linda Pence, one of Indianapolis’ highest-profile litigators, is launching her own firm with a longtime law colleague.
She and David Hensel left the Indianapolis office of Cincinnati-based Taft Stettinius Hollister to start PenceHensel. The
new firm began operating June 1.
The pair hung their shingle on the 18th floor of the downtown M&I Plaza and will concentrate on complex civil and business
disputes, as well as white-collar criminal defense work.
They said conflicts of interest that arise more from practicing at a large law firm began to hinder their ability to represent
clients. Taft, which has additional Ohio offices in Cleveland, Columbus, and Dayton, absorbed Sommer Barnard in 2008.
“They get conflicted out of a lot of things because of our firm,” acknowledged Robert Hicks, managing partner
of Taft’s Indianapolis office. “It’s frustrating.”
Their close professional relationship has endured the past 20 years, despite their political differences. Pence, 60, is a
Democratic stalwart who ran unsuccessfully for Indiana attorney general in 2008. Hensel, 53, is a Republican who served a
short stint as a Marion Superior Court judge.
“We are very good friends,” Pence said. “We’re very different, but we have a great deal of mutual
respect. We trust one another.”
Though Pence has tried cases for two of the city’s largest law firms, including as a name partner at the former Johnson
Smith Pence Densborn Wright & Heath, she’s no stranger to solo practice.
She founded her own firm in 1986 after returning to Indianapolis from Washington, D.C., where she served 13 years as a trial
lawyer at the U.S. Department of Justice.
Hensel, who also had practiced in the nation’s capital, returned to the city in 1990 and began working for Pence, though
neither previously had known the other.
The pair have been practicing together ever since, minus a four-year hiatus from 1997 to 2001, when Hensel served as deputy
commissioner and chief counsel for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, and later as a judge.
Their legal careers have taken them to Johnson Smith, Sommer Barnard, and Taft, and now back to what they prefer.
“This is what I really want to do,” Pence said. “David and I have had an incredible 20 years of practicing
The two are confident their legal experience will help them weather the challenges of launching their own business amid a
Some of their clients are following them to their new firm, while others will benefit from the resources of a larger practice,
Pence said. Both Pence and Hicks at Taft described the departure as amicable and said they will refer clients to each other.
John David Hoover, who helped launch Hoover Hull following the demise of Johnson Smith in 2001, said Pence and Hensel should
“They’ve practiced together for a long time and have been friends for a long time,” he said. “They’re
both great people.”
Pence gained acclaim 10 years ago when she negotiated settlements in two high-profile cases within a six-month period.
In November 2000, while representing independent dealers of Shell Oil Co., she struck a deal with Shell attorneys under which
the oil company bought out the dealers’ service stations. The dealers had accused the company of trying to drive them
out of business by raising their rents, overcharging for gasoline, and unfairly competing against them with company-owned
Then, while representing the state of Indiana, Pence and Thomas Barnard, a partner at Taft, accepted a $14.2 million settlement
offer from Pendleton-based Guide Corp. The now-defunct manufacturer agreed to pay the money to federal, state, and city agencies
as a result of a massive White River fish kill in 1999.
Most recently, Pence was nominated by U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh, D-Indiana, to become the U.S. attorney in Indianapolis –
a position that remains vacant.
Pence said she withdrew her nomination in October because the process was taking too long and preventing her from taking
This story was originally published in the June 7, 2010, issue of Indianapolis Business Journal.