Women In Propane: Passion for Learning Ignites Regier's Legal Career

It is easy to picture Kathryn Regier (who goes by Katy), an attorney for Sandburg Phoenix & von Gontard PC in Kansas City, as a teacher. Problem-solving, teaching, mentoring, and giving back are a large part of who she is as an attorney in the propane industry.
WIP Regier

“I enjoy learning, problem-solving, and teaching. When I learn something that’s important from my litigation experience, I want to share that information,” she said.  

After earning a Bachelor of Science degree in education, teaching for several years, and then yearning to learn more, she took a skills assessment test that identified a career in the legal profession as a good fit. She became a paralegal, but quickly realized she wanted to be an attorney. With great determination, the mother of two began law school the same day her son started kindergarten.

Today, Regier’s legal experience includes a range of civil litigation including defending propane companies in cases involving fires, explosions, and carbon monoxide exposure in fatality, serious injury, and high-dollar property damages matters across the country. In addition, she consults with companies about risk-management efforts designed to reduce the likelihood of incidents that could lead to litigation.

Her entry into the energy/fuel industry came while clerking at Phillips Petroleum in Bartlesville, Okla. in between her first and second year of law school at the University of Kansas. “It was a very interesting introduction to the petroleum industry from a litigation and problem-solving standpoint,” she said.

After graduating from law school, Regier began working in California and later returned to the Midwest. She is a licensed attorney in California, Kansas, and Missouri, but has worked on legal matters throughout the country. Her clients have ranged from small family-owned businesses to national companies to manufacturers.

An active participant in the propane industry, she is interested in more than billable hours. She regularly attends and presents at industry conferences, writes legal articles for state propane association publications, and stays in touch with issues facing the industry. She also serves in leadership positions for the Fire Science & Litigation and Women in The Law Committees for the Defense Research Institute (DRI). In addition, she has shared her legal expertise as an adjunct professor of legal studies at a local community college.

Her legal articles examine risk management using published decisions as examples. Regier focuses on appellate decisions and how they ultimately are resolved by describing the facts, the issues, and the resolution with a tie back to risk-management issues. In addition to her articles for the propane industry, she also was the co-editor in chief of the DRI Women in The Law Committee’s first e-book, Women Rainmakers: Roadmap to Success, and is the vice chair of the DRI Women in the Law publications committee.

 “I have a wide variety of experience in product liability matters and also this innate curiosity of how things work. I want to know the different steps involved in various processes and how things are done,” she explained. “I enjoy analyzing the legal issues and factoring them into the background facts of a situation.”

A challenging and rewarding part of her work is working through the litigation process with clients, including employees with first-hand knowledge of the underlying process, product, accident, or other issues. “What is in my wheelhouse as far as litigation often is not in the clients’ range of experience, and the unknown aspects of litigation to the client can be very difficult,” Regier said.

“It’s rewarding to take someone so concerned about the unknown and what led to the litigation or other legal issues, and help them through the process. It’s a reward for me to see a good result, and let people know they can learn from this [experience], move forward, and be an even better company.”

Originally from Hiawatha, Kan., a small town in the northeastern part of the state, Regier grew up with four siblings and working parents.

“You learn a lot about values, time management, work ethic, problem-solving, helping each other, common goals, and making sure your voice and ideas are heard,” she said, referring to growing up with a big family. “I think that’s why I appreciate what I see today from people in the propane industry. They have solid values; they appreciate family and doing a good job every day. They are just good people all around who want to support their families and the industry, keep people safe, and help make their companies strong and prosperous.”

In her free time, Regier stays close to her family—she heads back to Hiawatha at least once a week to visit and help her mother. She also loves to garden and enjoys traveling with her husband, Chris.

Mentoring is an important part of her success. A good contingent of both men and women in and outside of the propane industry have shared their expertise with her, and she is committed to doing the same. “It’s important to underscore and provide opportunities for the advancements of women in the propane industry and women in the law. It’s very important for women to help other women achieve their highest potential,” she said, adding she hopes to become involved with the Women in Propane Council.

“I appreciate just being around people in the propane industry. It’s very uplifting.”

—Karen Massman VanAsdale