The Saga of How Jeff Regan and Gene Atwood Became Partners
Jeff Regan: Well, Gene and I first met back in 1995 when Gene was a first-year law clerk and I was a young partner in another law firm. And Gene came in and was duly put to work in the real estate department and I was handling construction litigation and a couple of very large landfill closure litigation cases. And I found out about Gene’s background as a 20-year general contractor. And next thing you know, Gene worked for me for the rest of the summer. That’s how we met.
It was a fun experience. I was walking into a situation where I was at least the age older than the number of the partners in the firm. And getting their trust that I was actually going to follow directions was something that I saw as a challenge.
Hit it Off Right Away
Gene Atwood: But with Jeff, I hit it off right away. We never had that issue, he understood that I was there to work and he was there to tell me how to. And we have good time on the case. Got to know each other real well. And that began the relationship.
Jeff: And throughout that entire summer, Gene worked with me, attended meetings, large conference calls, a lot more responsibility than a summer law clerk would normally have. I was delighted that I had someone to help me out that could actually read the plans and specifications and sit down and have a discussion with me about it. And as Gene said, we became fast friends and we socialized through the summer as well. So it was a nice meeting.
The Recruiting Came Early
Gene: And then Jeff left. He went out with two other partners, former partners of Rogers Towers. And I could recall that the phone calls recruiting me came fairly shortly after that. And it went on for a number of years.
Jeff: Yes. My old firm didn’t bother to tell Gene that I had left the firm until he’d made a commitment to go to the old firm. And so when he made the commitment to go to the old firm, I certainly reached out and tried to talk him into coming and joining my new firm with me.
And that was a process, as Gene said, went on for about 10 years back and forth. We actually had a good few jokes about it. I recall one day getting into the elevator with Gene and one of the partners came up and say, “Jeff, what are you doing here with Gene?” And I said, “I’m just taking him out to lunch to hire him away from you.” And the look was priceless on the guy’s face. So it was funny, but it was about a 10-year process and it never quite worked out.
Shoe is on the Other Foot
And then, kind of, the shoe went on the other foot. And the next thing I knew my old firm through Gene was recruiting me to come back. And I didn’t think that that would’ve happened cause they weren’t happy when I left, but now they wanted me back. And so that was about a two-year process then, I think.
Gene: Yeah, we went through about another two years back and forth on what would be the best and what Jeff didn’t know at the time is right before that, about that firm, I was getting ready to come to him to ask him, “Okay, it’s time for me to move now.” I put that on hold because of his interest in joining the firm. I thought it was only right to let that play out first and it did play out for two years and it turned out not to be the fit that Jeff would have hoped. And so at that point I came to him one day and said, “I’m leaving Rogers Towers.”
Jeff: And my comment was, “where are you going?”
Gene: And I would say, “I hoped it would be evident.”
Jeff: So, I was preparing at the time for six-week trial and I’m working even at 16-hour days getting ready for it. And so I told Gene at the time, “Friday night, eight o’clock we’ll have dinner and we’ll sit down. That’s the only time I’m going to be able to spare.”
Jumping in to Help
We had dinner that night. We talked it through. We cut our deal that Friday night and Gene was on board a few weeks later and at the very last minute, I mean at the last minute, about four days before the trial, the court unexpectedly continued the case and so Gene was then able to jump in and help me later on when the case went to trial down the road.
Gene: It’s been a great relationship then. Since then, we’ve both approached the practice in similar manners. It makes it easy for us to discuss not only the legal issues but also the business issues, in the partnership.
And we’ve had some we … we can get into some very intense conversations on the law, but the conversations we’ve had as far as, how Jeff runs his firm has always been easy. Suddenly, like I said, sometimes when we’re talking about the law, we both have strong opinions and those conversations I hope are beneficial to both of us. So, let us test each other out.
And they’re beneficial, not just us, but they’re beneficial for our clients because of the give-and-take that we have with one another and playing devil’s advocate, it helps us see both sides of the problems that we’re trying to resolve for our clients. It’s been a great partnership.
Looking at the Endgame
And we understand how important that is. We both through our time taken cases that other lawyers likely wouldn’t have taken. We see legal issues with a clarity sometimes that helps us guide a client into what their rights may be in any given situation. And it also let us take a look at a client and give them the bad news sort of. “Yeah, you have a great claim but not a good case.”
Jeff: Yes, we both approached the practice of law with looking at the endgame first. By looking at the endgame when the clients come in and figure out what’s the best, most efficient way to solve their problem. And sometimes that’s going to a five- or six-week jury trial and sometimes that’s getting a quick settlement. And often depends on whether the plaintiff and the defendant we find ourselves representing both in any given situation.
Gene: And sometimes it’s just telling the client that’s not the right time to have a fight. That there are other ways to get around whatever the issue may be. But I can tell you throughout my career I’ve had cases come to me that other attorneys had turned down. And they had said that there was no claim there. And some of those have been some of my most successful cases. It’s a matter of parsing through what the facts are, thinking through a spectrum of the law. I think what helps Jeff and I both, cause we’re not just construction lawyers, Jeff has even more experience on business, but I have extensive experience in business and property litigation. And it helps you take a look at things through a different lens.