20 UNDER 40: Demonstrating leadership at work, in community

Shontrai DeVaughn Irving, State Farm Litigation Counsel
2011-09-18T00:00:00Z 20 UNDER 40: Demonstrating leadership at work, in communityBy Diane Poulton BusINess Contributor nwitimes.com
September 18, 2011 12:00 am  • 

Shontrai DeVaughn Irving is a prominent attorney who believes in serving his State Farm clients well and giving back to the community. Irving has been a foster parent to more than 30 children during the past five years.

His success, leadership and community commitment have earned Irving the honor of being included in the Class of 2011 20 under 40 award winners.

"I'm really excited to be recognized in the community where I live," Irving says. "The best honor is to be recognized at home. That means I am doing the right thing and encourages me to continue on the road I am on."

"I think it is important to give back to the community. I do believe that definitely in Lake County, Indiana, and probably in Northwest Indiana as a whole, that there is a brain drain in which many of the talented people in our community leave and go elsewhere for other opportunities," Irving says.

"It is very important for those of us who remain that we invest in the youth where we are to help make our community better. I think from a very young age, my parents and grandparents always instilled in me how important it is to give back. I was fortunate that I always had people who encouraged me and it is important that I give back to help others along the way."

Irving says his mother, Renee Brazelton, was supportive, encouraging him to do well in his education. Another inspiration was Keith Ramsey, of Gary. While in high school, Irving was mentored by Ramsey in a career connections program the doctor ran.

Attorney Deanne Sasser, who nominated Irving for the award, says his personal motto is derived from Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice: "None of us got where we are solely by pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps. We got here because somebody -- a parent, a teacher, an Ivy League crony, or a few nuns, bent down and helped us pick our boots."

"I think that it is very true," Irving said. "I have a very supportive team, my family and the other attorneys in my office."

Irving has been a foster parent since 2006 when, at 32, he took in a family of four siblings ranging in age from 2 to 8. They are still under his care. Irving has provided a home for more than 30 other children through respite care and placement. For his service, Irving was selected as the 2007 Foster Parent of the Year by the Indiana Foster Care and Adoption Association.

Irving said he became involved in foster care after taking a class while he was a Lake County Deputy Prosecutor. He was prosecuting defendants for abuse and neglect of children.

"My mom was taking foster parent classes and asked me to take them with her," Irving says. "I initially told her 'no,' but I thought about it and decided it would give me a better understanding of how it affected the people and what they are going through."

Irving was featured on the Star Jones television show. Sasser says he has been recognized by the Indianapolis Colts, the Indiana General Assembly and the president of the United States. Irving was the 2008 recipient of the Honorable Viola J. Taliaferro Award by the Indiana State Bar Association. Sasser says the award is given to a lawyer who exemplifies Judge Taliaferro's courageous, visionary leadership in addressing the unmet legal needs of children.

Attorney Irving is house counsel for the State Farm Litigation Counsel. In this capacity, Irving defends in the areas of bodily injury, property damage and premise liability. His primary responsibilities entail defending State Farm policy holders in lawsuits arising from automotive and homeowners' claims.

Irving was featured on the back cover of the State Farm Red International Magazine in recognition of his customer advocacy.

It reads Irving "takes a very personal approach with clients when he explains the law in the litigation process."

"When a person is sued it can be very stressful," Irving says. "People don't know what to expect."

Sasser says Irving's legal skills have also been recognized as he was selected as the 2010 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Indiana State Bar Association. He was named the 2007 Outstanding Young Lawyer by the Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana and was a recipient of the 2007 Leadership in Law Award.

Irving's professional memberships include the Indiana State, Lake County and American Bar Associations; vice president of the Kimbrough Bar Association; Defense Trial Counsel of Indiana; Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity; Indiana Foster care and Adoption Association; and the National Foster Parent Association.

Irving is on the board of directors of the Gary Community Improvement Association, Purdue Club of Northwest Indiana and Purdue Alumni Association–Calumet.

Irving said the Gary Community Improvement Association helps community members develop their work and parenting skills.

Irving graduated from Indiana University Bloomington with distinction in 1997 with majors in Criminal Justice and Afro American studies. He earned his Indiana University School of Law degree in 2003 while pursuing his master's degree in Business Administration from Purdue University in 2009, where he was named the outstanding student by the faculty.

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