Trailblazing Indianapolis lawyer Sue Shadley dies

Keywords Attorneys / Law / Law Firms

Indianapolis attorney Sue Shadley, who made her mark in environmental law and was a founding partner in what became one of the city’s major firms, died Monday from Lou Gehrig’s disease. She was 63.

“She was such a terrific partner and an even better person,” George Plews, partner at Plews Shadley Racher & Braun LLP, said. “She had a great capacity for personal affection and enthusiasm. I can’t think of a single lawyer who had a bad thing to say about an interaction with Sue Shadley.”

Plews had practiced with Shadley since the two founded the firm in 1988 along with George Pendygraft. Plews said through hard work, grit and determination, Shadley helped the firm grow to its current 40 lawyers.

In a written statement, the firm said it’s the only top 10 law firm in Indianapolis formed in the last 25 years, and Shadley was the first female managing partner of such a large firm in the city. She held the post five times.

The Indianapolis Bar Association’s Women and the Law Division presented the Antoinette Dakin Leach Award to Shadley just a week before her passing.  

“She was as much fun to practice law with as any person I’ve ever come across,” Plews said. “She was such a quiet pioneer in so many ways.”

Shadley previously blazed a trail as the first general counsel of the Indiana Department of Environmental Management and was instrumental in the development and implementation of numerous state environmental codes.

Before her time at IDEM, Shadley worked in positions of public service for the Indianapolis Air Pollution Control Board and the Department of Natural Resources, according to the firm. At the DNR, she helped write, and then as an administrative law judge administered, the new surface coal mining reclamation law in Indiana.

Shadley retired from the firm at the end of 2013. Shortly afterward, she was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The disease attacks motor neurons, cells that control muscles.

“Just as with the law, Shadley became an advocate in fighting this disease in order to improve the lives of others, working with the ALS Association of Indiana to raise funds for the Nutrition Supplement, Respite, and Loan Equipment Closet programs,” the firm said.

Shadley also served numerous other governmental entities, including the Indiana Recycling and Energy Development Board (1988-1992), Indiana’s Environmental Crimes Task Force (2005-2007), and Purdue University’s Agronomy Advisory Council. She was named a Distinguished Agricultural Alumni at Purdue in 2000 and a Distinguished Fellow of the Indianapolis Bar Foundation in 2006.

Shadley received her undergraduate degree from Purdue University in 1974 and her law degree from Indiana University Maurer School of Law in 1977.

A more detailed view of Shadley’s accomplishments can be seen on her firm bio. Shadley also was named an Indiana Lawyer Distinguished Barrister in 2014.

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