We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of our friend and partner Amanda Shaw-Castro on January 26, 2022.
“We have lost an incredible team member way too soon. Amanda was an amazing person full of life and gumption, and was always willing to help,” said S. Priya Coffey, managing partner of the Houston office. “She thought of herself as the underdog and pulled herself – and everyone else around her – up by her bootstraps. She was tough but unbelievably kind. She was a dear friend to many of us and will be missed tremendously.”
“Amanda was an amazing person full of life and gumption, and was always willing to help.”
Firmwide Managing Partner Wade Cooper commented, “Amanda had a heart of gold. As grandparents, we exchanged pictures of our grandchildren, and I know that her grandson was the light of her life. She was such a kind and loving person, and her memory will live on in every single person who had the distinct pleasure of meeting her.”
A Rising Star and Leader
A rising star in our Real Estate, Finance, and Energy practices, Amanda was instrumental in working on large multibillion-dollar real estate portfolio transactions, advising multinational companies buying large real estate portfolios, and borrowers and lenders in negotiating and structuring a variety of commercial finance transactions. Demonstrating her versatility as a lawyer, Amanda pioneered new opportunities for our clients in blockchain and cryptoassets, representing them in the acquisition and financing of the real estate for multi-state development sites. She also advised banks on structuring loans and credit facilities to energy companies and in restructuring oil and gas loans to maximize recovery.
In addition to her practice, Amanda dedicated her time as a member of the Diversity & Inclusion, Mentorship, and other committees integral to the management of the Firm. Through her participation on the Diversity & Inclusion Committee, Amanda co-led the Recruiting pillar, which focuses on connecting with diverse students in law school and finding talented lawyers who have already built strong practices.
“I had the privilege of working closely with Amanda on a daily basis for many years on real estate portfolio transactions. Amanda was an outstanding lawyer, a wonderful colleague and partner, an inspirational leader of our team, and a dear friend to all who worked with her and knew her,” said real estate partner Steven R. Jenkins. “Many clients, lawyers we work with around the country and business relationships in the real estate world, have reached out to express their warm thoughts about and memories of Amanda—always emphasizing how much they enjoyed working with Amanda and how they considered Amanda more than a business relationship, but a dear friend. Amanda was a truly unique, one-of-a kind, special person who will be dearly missed by all of the many people she touched.”
“Many clients, lawyers we work with around the country and business relationships in the real estate world, have reached out to express their warm thoughts about and memories of Amanda—always emphasizing how much they enjoyed working with Amanda and how they considered Amanda more than a business relationship, but a dear friend.”
As one of Amanda’s mentees, real estate associate Abby Wilkinson stated, “Amanda was the embodiment of hard work and perseverance, but more importantly, she was thoughtful, generous, and went out of her way to make people feel appreciated. Her mentorship, friendship, and encouragement permeated the lives of everyone around her, and I know that I am a better attorney and person for having the privilege of working beside her.”
“When I think of the ideal Jackson Walker partner, Amanda Shaw-Castro always comes to mind,” said partner Lewis S. Kasner, who chairs the Houston Real Estate practice. “Amanda was an exceptional advocate for others, compassionate to all, and no matter how busy—which was incredibly busy—she was willing to lend a hand. She was more than a colleague – she was a friend to everyone who knew her.”
Meredith Brewster, a real estate associate and another mentee of Amanda’s, remarked, “Amanda was so much more than just a co-worker. She was a mentor, team captain, role model and most importantly, a dear and fiercely loyal friend to all. She was the irreplaceable heart and soul of our team and will be sorely missed.”
“She was the irreplaceable heart and soul of our team and will be sorely missed.”
“Amanda was beloved by everyone she met. There was no transaction too big; no nuance too small; no path forward that she could not find; no stranger that she could not befriend,” said partner Jesse S. Lotay, current chair of the Firm’s Energy practice. “Tempered by her own humble beginnings, Amanda treated everyone with respect, humility, and with an approachability that was uniquely her own. Notwithstanding her professional successes, she would go out of her way to let others know that they were a valued member of her team, no matter how small their contributions. She was everyone’s fiercest advocate.”
“Amanda’s partnership, both as a colleague and a friend, will be deeply missed. Those of us that knew Amanda well will carry her legacy forward by being the rock to others, like she was for all of us,” Jesse concluded.
An Unlikely Journey
Years prior to earning the title of partner at Jackson Walker, Amanda started out as a dishwasher at a Colorado casino at the age of 13. At 16 years old, she was juggling her job as a server at a Catfish Kitchen in Beaumont, Texas, motherhood, and completing high school. By age 18, she was working as a correctional officer supervising men in a Texas prison.
Amanda’s first mentor, partner David G. Dunlap, revealed one of Amanda’s fond memories from a tense negotiation. “Amanda was holding on strongly to her position on a deal point,” David recalled. “I, supposedly, told the other side that they should think twice before getting Amanda irritated because she had been in prison for seven years. Only after letting that sink in did I add that she had been a prison guard before attending law school.”
He added, “I will miss her and her tenacity. She was like a daughter to me.”
Although her path was not linear, practicing law was always Amanda’s dream. As a child, she and her brother would ride along with her father, a criminal investigator, and often would sit in the courthouse, watching her father and attorneys interact.
“Every time they talked, people would listen,” Amanda recounted. “I saw the audience, this focus, like some miracle worker. I thought, ‘I want to be like that.’”
That drive to become a lawyer fueled her while attending law school. Every day, she spent several hours commuting from the prison to attend classes at night. After four years, she obtained her juris doctor, summa cum laude, from South Texas College of Law Houston, graduating in the top 2% of her class.
Partner Michael Pearson, former chair of the Energy practice, stated, “I am still in shock at the news of Amanda’s passing. Amanda was, simply put, a force of nature and an absolutely unique personality among the lawyers I have known over the years.”
“Amanda was, simply put, a force of nature and an absolutely unique personality among the lawyers I have known over the years.”
“Paul Vrana and I, when we co-chaired the Energy practice a number of years ago, were so impressed with her ‘origin story’ – working at a maximum security facility in Huntsville while commuting to Houston to go to law school at night – that we pressed hard for the firm to hire her, first as a summer associate and later as a full-time associate,” Mike said. “Amanda rewarded our faith a hundred fold.”
“I knew JW needed to hire her,” Paul affirmed. “If she could handle that job, the day-to-day challenges of practicing law would be no problem. The fact that she commuted several hours a day to attend law school at night and graduated at the top of her class while working such a challenging day job was even more impressive.” He concluded by saying that, “Amanda continued to excel during her time at JW, where she appeared to work non-stop to develop her practice and support those around her, all while managing the responsibilities of raising a family. She will be missed.”
Mike added, “Among the extreme work ethics I’ve observed in many lawyers over the years, Amanda’s was unparalleled. Beyond her accomplishments as a lawyer, Amanda was also a first-class colleague and a dear friend. A large personality filled with optimism and remarkable resilience.” He noted, “If someone in the Firm did not like Amanda, I never heard of it. And she was the most democratic of friends. A person’s employment or social status mattered not one whit to Amanda; lawyer or staff, if you were a good person and Amanda liked you, you had a loyal friend who always had your back. I am going to miss Amanda deeply.”
“Amanda was one of the most unique individuals I have ever known,” said real estate partner Brad Lowry. “She was an American success story – having grown up of very modest means (including at one point living in a cabin with dirt floors), working as a prison guard to support herself and two young children while going to college and eventually law school, and then becoming a very successful partner at a major law firm. She was a wonderful person, outstanding lawyer, and incredibly loyal friend. To know her was to love her. There will never be another quite like her.”
A Legacy of Loyalty and Kindness
Senior counsel Jonathan B. Judkowitz said, “To me, Amanda was Jackson Walker. I was able to witness her legal ferocity initially as opposing counsel and then on the same side of the table. After having gone multiple rounds negotiating against her, Amanda recruited—some would say strong-armed—me into joining the Jackson Walker family.” He added that, “The relationships she had with her clients and colleagues were amazing. Amanda got to know everyone on a personal level. Their wins were her wins. Their challenges were her challenges. She was, in every sense of the word, a champion.”
“To me, Amanda was Jackson Walker.”
“Amanda was unapologetic ambition in motion. I’ve never met anyone like her,” said partner S. Jordan Smith, who joined Jackson Walker in the same 2009 class as Amanda. “We served as each other’s sounding board—or punching bag, figuratively speaking—when needed. Few have ever become as professionally successful as she while juggling the myriad of obstacles at home, equally successfully. She was one of my closest friends and colleagues, and I will miss her terribly.”
Partner Anna Irion said, “I met Amanda when interviewing at JW. She and I would later talk about that day and laugh about how we must have been friends in a former life because of how quickly we bonded. Of course, I think she had that effect on just about everyone she met.” Anna continued, “Amanda was fiercely loyal to her friends and family. Nothing was ever too much of a favor in Amanda’s mind. Her heart was bigger than her personality, and anyone who knew her knows how huge that is.”
Partner Monica Pace Messick shared that, “As anyone who knew Amanda could attest, she was a force—in the best way.” In reflecting on Amanda’s memory, Monica said, “She was ferociously protective of her family, friends, and team members. She didn’t just offer words of encouragement; she would cheerlead for us, throw the occasional elbow for us, be that shoulder when we needed it, and more. She was always thinking of others. She was also a heck of a lot of fun. The hole she leaves is huge, and she will be sorely, sorely missed.”
One of Amanda’s most amazing traits was her warm heart. She held close friendships with so many at Jackson Walker—regardless of their title. Kathy Eiden, her first legal administrative assistant, commented, “I admired her so much for the hardships she overcame to become the person she was. She was always thinking about how to do something nice for someone to make their life better. She was incredibly strong and one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. I will miss her terribly. She was special to all of us.”
Amanda is survived by her husband, Rob, her two children, Taylor and Tony, and her grandson, whom she referred to as Prince William with profound adoration.