Ashley Edwards Sandage didn’t always envision becoming an attorney. After graduating with a degree in psychology from Mississippi State, the Hammond native dabbled in the retail field for several years before determining her heart wasn’t in it. Ultimately, she found her calling in law just as generations of her family had done.
She is now a successful trial attorney, mediator and partner at the Hammond law firm Cashe Coudrain & Sandage as well as co-owner with her brother Byard at Reunion Lake RV Resort, a popular luxury campground in Ponchatoula.
Sandage reflected on her earlier challenges of being the law firm’s first female partner in a male-dominated field. During her first week at the firm over 20 years ago, she accompanied a colleague to bankruptcy court. The judge, a cigar-smoking older man, propped his feet on the desk and studied her. “Well, you’re a lot prettier than he is,” he commented, then ignored her for the rest of the proceeding. Sandage was determined that wouldn’t happen again. A courtroom judge gave her some advice. “Don’t be aggressive. Don’t be nasty. Just be the most prepared person in the room,” he said. Sandage heeded his insight and made it a point to know every last detail about every case she took. She laughs that now she’s constantly over prepared. Sandage credits part of her success to mentors Alton Lewis, Andre Coudrain and the late Rodney Cashe, who always encouraged her to be the best that she could be. Cashe didn’t have any daughters so he considered Sandage the daughter he never had, and she in turn viewed him as a father figure. The guidance she gleaned from the three men helped her achieve Hammond’s Junior Auxiliary Woman of the Year in 2008.
Planning and preparing comes naturally to Sandage and helped her sail through undergraduate studies, appearing on both the Dean’s and President’s list, but her childhood wasn’t quite as easy. Her father left the family when she and her brother Byard were very young, and for several years Sandage’s mom, Hunter, raised the two children by herself. After remarrying, her mom finished college and earned both a Master’s and a PhD. It taught Sandage the lessons of perseverance and patience.
“My mom is my hero,” she proudly stated. “For her to accomplish what she did as a busy mom is extraordinary to me and my two brothers.” Her mom went on to become a professor of counseling at Southeastern Louisiana University. Sandage’s stepdad, Ross Downing Sr., imparted his own brand of wisdom to her and stepsister Blair Downing Edwards—to always make sure you can take care of yourself, no matter what. She and Edwards took the advice to heart. Both graduated law school and Edwards is now a judge. Sandage strives to instill the same dedication and work ethic in her children Hunter, 19 and Mackie, 17.
For all that Sandage put into her work, nothing could prepare her for the personal challenge she would come to face. One evening after dinner while relaxing with her family, she suddenly fell, lost consciousness and had a massive seizure. An ambulance rushed her to the hospital where she was diagnosed with a brain tumor; the accompanying grand mal seizure was her only symptom. Fortunately, the tumor was benign but it left Sandage weak and unable to keep a full schedule for months. She managed with the help of her longtime secretary Karen, who brought mail, legal work and a parental helping hand to her home as she recuperated — just as she had done when Sandage was on maternity leave.
Sandage always aims to excel in her professional career and more importantly, her personal life. In her children’s younger years, Sandage drove them to school every morning, helped them with homework at her office and made sure they shared a meal every evening. Now herself a single mom, she relies on the strength and resolve her own mother exemplified throughout her childhood.
Sandage cares deeply about the community. She is a member of Holy Ghost Catholic Church and a former board member of the Tangipahoa Chapter of the American Cancer Society. She is also on the Education Committee and the Steering Committee for the accelerated learning program. As an attorney for the Tangipahoa Parish School board, she is especially proud of her hand in developing the magnet program. “Every child has the right to a quality education,” she stressed. “It’s the only way to sustain forward progress. Kids are our future and we have to do everything we can to make sure they are ready and prepared.” Her law firm practices what they preach. Once a month the staff takes turns volunteering at an area school. Sandage hopes to challenge other local businesses to do the same.
A true multi-tasker, Sandage brings the same unwavering commitment to everything she touches. Whether it’s her family, her career or charitable endeavors, Sandage gives no less than 110 percent. She said her personal and career challenges have helped make her a better mother, attorney and citizen. Her strong faith continues to guide her to always do the right thing. “If you can’t do it or say it in front of God, don’t do it or say it at all,” she said emphatically. It’s a motto Sandage strives to live by each and every day.
Cashe Coudrain & Sandage is located at 106 S. Magnolia Street in Hammond. For information, call 985-542-6848 or visit: ccsattorneys.com