In The Disciplinary Matter Involving LAWRENCE F. REGER, Respondent.
File Nos. 2014D183 and 2014D223
R. Driscoll Assistant Bar Counsel
Lawrence F. Reger Respondent
A. Weiner Attorney for Respondent
Before: Stowers, Chief Justice, Winfree, Maassen, Bolger, and
Counsel for the Alaska Bar Association and attorney Lawrence
F. Reger entered into a stipulation for discipline by consent
that would result in a six-month suspension from the practice
of law, nine hours of specific continuing legal education as
a condition prior to seeking reinstatement to the practice of
law, and payment of $ 1, 000 in costs. The Bar
Association's Disciplinary Board approved the stipulation
and now recommends that we do so as well. The facts of
Reger's misconduct are set forth in the stipulation,
which is attached as an appendix. We take these facts as true,
we apply our independent judgment to the sanctions'
on the stipulated facts we agree with the legal analysis -
set out in the stipulation-that the agreed upon sanctions are
appropriate for Reger's misconduct. Accordingly, Lawrence
F. Reger is suspended from the practice of law for six
months, required to complete six hours of CLE regarding law
office management and three hours of legal ethics as a
condition prior to seeking reinstatement to the practice of
law, and shall pay $1, 000 to the Alaska Bar Association
within 60 days from entry of this order for disciplinary
costs and fees incurred in this case.
order is effective 30 days after issuance pursuant to Alaska
Bar Rule 28(c).
by direction of the court.
THE ALASKA BAR ASSOCIATION DISCIPLINARY BOARD
Disciplinary Matter Involving LAWRENCE F. REGER, Respondent.
Membership No. 9811081
to Alaska Bar Rule 22(h), Lawrence F. Reger, Respondent, by
and through counsel, Jason A. Weiner, and Louise Driscoll,
Assistant Bar Counsel, stipulate as follows:
Reger was at all times pertinent, an attorney at law admitted
to practice by the Supreme Court of Alaska, and a member of
the Alaska Bar Association. At all times relevant, Reger
practiced law in Fairbanks, Fourth Judicial District, Alaska.
On April 22, 2016, the Alaska Supreme Court suspended Reger
for non-payment of 2016 Bar dues. Reger remains on
Reger is, and was at all times pertinent, subject to the
Alaska Rules of Professional Conduct ("ARPCs") and
to Part II, Rules of Disciplinary Enforcement, Alaska Bar
Rules, giving the Alaska Supreme Court and the Disciplinary
Board of the Bar jurisdiction to resolve this matter.
late 2014 Bar Counsel opened two disciplinary grievances
against Reger for investigation. The following facts will
describe Reger's law practice and his law practice
management which led to the professional misconduct depicted
in the two grievances.
Reger was admitted to the practice of law in Alaska in
November 1998. In 2006 or 2007, while sharing offices in
Fairbanks with several other attorneys, he decided to hire a
legal assistant. After interviewing several persons, he hired
KW because she communicated well and had excellent
Initially KW was assigned simple tasks, including making
copies and answering telephone calls. She arrived early and
stayed late at the office. She was friendly with co-workers,
but task-oriented. Over time KW revealed an eye for detail
and a willingness to seek clarification if she was uncertain
about a task. Reger was most impressed that KW would report
when she made a mistake which allowed corrective measures to
be promptly taken.
response to her proven abilities, Reger assigned her more
complex tasks, such as drafting simple letters, calendaring
deadlines, drafting Civil Rule 90.3 child support guidelines,
drafting Civil Rule 26.1 disclosures in domestic relations
cases, and preparing trial exhibits.
became a key part of Reger's successful practice which he
likened to a well-oiled machine. KW made copies, prepared
routine non-substantive motions such as requests for
extension of time, and was the primary point of contact for
clients on all non-substantive matters. Reger dealt with
substantive matters, drafted motions, and reviewed and
formulated discovery. Reger held KW in high regard because
she was conscientious and hard-working and she demonstrated a
caring nature toward the firm's clients.
After several years, other lawyers in the office suite
relocated. The space was too expensive for Reger to maintain
so he entered a different office-sharing arrangement with
Around this time KW left the state with her military spouse
who had been transferred to a new duty station. The attorneys
in the new office suite had difficulty in finding and
maintaining competent staff. One day KW called to say her
husband was retiring from the military and the family was
returning to Alaska. Reger offered her a job on the spot and
returned to work in late 2011. She adjusted quickly to
working with three different attorneys with quite different
practices. After one of the attorneys relocated, KW continued
to work with Reger and the other lawyer in the office suite.
During the summer of 2013, the other attorney's behavior
began to change. He became short-tempered and often
didn't show up at the office. KW reported the
attorney's clients were becoming increasingly upset.
Reger and KW began to discuss moving to another location due
to the stressful situation.
the late summer of 2013, Reger tried to make a phone call and
discovered his office line was disconnected. He learned the
telephone bills had gone unpaid.
Under the office-sharing arrangement, Reger paid one-half of
the total office overhead, including the telephone bill, to
the other attorney who appeared not to be applying those
funds to the service providers. From his perspective Reger
was current with his bills, but he paid $3, 200 to the phone
company that day to have his phone service restored.
Learning about the overdue telephone bill prompted a call to
the landlord and Reger learned that office rent had not been
paid in several months. Reger was subletting from the other
attorney, and was not a party to the primary rental
agreement, but he brought his portion of the rent current to
avoid immediate eviction.
Reger realized that bringing the bills current did not solve
the problem. He and KW decided to move to a new office
despite the time and expense associated with a move.
Most available office space in downtown Fairbanks was for
more space than he needed and more money than he could
afford. A former client learned that Reger was looking for
office space and called with a proposal. The client's
wife owned a duplex with a mother-in-law apartment that had
been used for an office before. It was small but conveniently
located so it met Reger's needs.
Reger had a significant cash-flow problem because he had to
bring a number of bills current on little notice. To help
fund the office move, KW offered to loan Reger $ 16, 000 from
a personal injury settlement he had recently obtained on her
Reger and KW discussed the proposal at length. Reger accepted
KW s offer and promised to share future profits 50/50 with
her, first as a loan repayment and then as a bonus.
Reger and KW moved into their new office location in early
October 2013. Problems immediately began. The former client
who had offered the rental space was arrested and charged
with several significant federal firearms-related felonies.
The client's wife, the landlady, was also under
investigation by federal authorities, including the Bureau of
Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF), and was under a great
deal of stress.
telephone company refused to transfer his office phone, fax
lines and e-mail accounts because they were in the name of
the other attorney who had fallen in arrears again. Thus,
Reger had to switch his phone, fax and internet provider to
another service provider. KW said she provided clients with
new contact information, but it was difficult for former
clients who wanted representation in new matters and
potential new clients to locate his office. Mail delivery was
erratic, but gradually improved.
the spring of 2014, KW started acting strangely. She appeared
anxious and depressed and she alluded to family problems.
Then KW confided she had been diagnosed with cancer. She
produced a printout of a medical test showing masses in her
liver and a declaration that the masses were malignant. KW
asked for flexibility to be able to attend medical
appointments and to personal matters as they arose. Reger
assured KW he would happily accommodate her.
Reger was devastated by the news that KW had cancer. KW's
husband was a close personal friend. He had watched their
child grow from pre-school to high school. KW's medical
condition made him question the future of his practice
because he could not envision working with someone other than
KW who got along so well with his clients and who was so
skilled and helpful in his practice.
Over the next few months KW's condition became
increasingly uncertain. New tests proved the cancer diagnosis
wrong, but severe symptoms with KW's digestive system
continued. KW seemed tired, anxious and depressed, but she
told Reger that her work kept her sane and she refused to
consider a leave of absence or retirement. Work started to
pick up, but KW denied that she was overwhelmed at the
office. She seemed agitated when Reger asked if she needed
help so he backed off.
mid-2014 BATF stopped by Reger's office to ask about the
landlady. KW reported that law enforcement appeared to be
staking out the building. One day a local BATF agent was
parked in plain view across the street from the office and
several state troopers had the building under surveillance.
small, but distinct, part of Reger's client base were
persons accused of controlled-substance-related offenses.
Having the building in which their attorney's office was
located under the surveillance of state and federal law
enforcement was untenable.
Reger had a series of discussions with KW about the future of
the practice. He proposed that they slowly close down his
practice and leave the legal profession together. He could
not imagine practicing with anyone other than KW assisting
Reger had several cases set for trial and he resolved to see
those cases through to the end. He planned to take no new
matter that would not wrap up before the end of 2015.
Cash flow became a significant problem because they were
referring new business to other lawyers and some current
clients were not paying their bills. He wanted to leave his
current office space before the law enforcement's
intermittent surveillance caused a problem for a client.
Reger and KW decided to practice from their respective
residences and meet face-to-face with clients elsewhere.
After Reger and KW moved, she told him that she had arranged
for mail forwarding from their former office address to a new
post office box. She arranged for phone and fax lines to go
to her residence. They both had e-mail access from their
arrangement seemed ideal for KW who could stay at home with
her family. According to Reger, all KW had to do was answer
phones, get the bills out, keep the filing current, check the
mail, check the fax machine at her home office, check the
pick-up bin at the courthouse, make copies and occasionally
draft a child support guidelines affidavit or set of initial
disclosures. Reger would work on cases, return calls on
substantive matters to clients, and work just as he had
arrangement appeared to be going well in the initial weeks.
Then in late October he learned that clients were having
trouble reaching him. In late October a lawyer called him
about a domestic relations matter in which Reger had missed a
hearing. In November he learned that KW was not responding to
e-mail relating to a different client matter.
Reger met with KW in mid-November to discuss the issue of
e-mails not being answered or forwarded to him and phone
calls not being returned. KW alleged she had been having
e-mail problems but she was returning all messages she had
received. When Reger asked if she was overwhelmed and needed
to focus on her personal life, KW started to sob and said she
still wanted to work. He proposed a compromise wherein he
took care of filing, getting the mail, checking the pickup
bin at the courthouse, drafting all letters and ...