Longtime chief disciplinary counsel to retire
Supreme Court of Missouri selects office's next leader
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – As Missouri Chief Justice Paul C. Wilson has recognized, the state’s longtime chief disciplinary counsel – Alan D. Pratzel – intends to retire effective Nov. 11 after spending nearly four decades balancing public protection with objective fairness, while helping lawyers improve their practice.
Wilson described Pratzel as a “hero” during the opening luncheon of the joint annual meeting of the Judicial Conference of Missouri (the organization of all the state’s judges) and The Missouri Bar (the organization of all lawyers licensed in the state) last month in Springfield.
“Alan has devoted his life to protecting the public and the integrity of the profession by teaching generations of lawyers to know and follow the rules of professional conduct.,” Wilson said during his luncheon remarks. “I hope he knows how much better our profession is for his having played such an important role in it.”
Pratzel has worked in Missouri’s attorney disciplinary system since 1985 and has served as the state’s chief disciplinary counsel – responsible for overseeing the system – since April 2007. He previously was the special representative for the disciplinary committees in the city of St. Louis and St. Louis County, providing primary administrative oversight for the attorney disciplinary process in those areas and actively litigating individual disciplinary cases. He also has taught legal ethics courses for many years at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis and the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law, in addition to countless continuing legal education sessions he has provided for Missouri attorneys.
As the chief disciplinary counsel, Pratzel leads an office of lawyers, investigators and other staff members who investigate allegations of misconduct by lawyers, prosecute cases when a lawyer’s misconduct poses a threat to the public or to the integrity of the legal profession, and keep current records of disciplinary information for lawyers licensed to practice law in Missouri. He also has maintained an active caseload, trying cases to disciplinary hearing panels throughout the state and then routinely briefing and arguing cases that reach the Supreme Court of Missouri.
Under Pratzel’s leadership, the chief disciplinary counsel’s office helped the Court redraft a multitude of new and better provisions to Missouri’s rules of professional conduct as well as the entire set of procedural rules for disciplinary enforcement. He also advocated for more early intervention efforts when appropriate – through probation, diversion and monitoring – to help prevent issues lawyers may be having from growing into bigger problems.
A St. Louis native, Pratzel earned his bachelor’s degree in history in 1975 and his law degree in 1978, both from Washington University. He then spent 22 years in the private practice of law with Lashly & Baer in St. Louis. He was one of three recipients of The Missouri Bar Foundation’s 2022 Spurgeon Smithson Award for his contributions toward increasing the quality of justice. He also is a past recipient of the Bar’s Purcell Professionalism Award, given in recognition of lawyers who have shown a high standard of competency, integrity and civility in professional and civic activities.
To carry on the fine work of the disciplinary system, the Court has selected Laura E. Elsbury to become the state’s next chief disciplinary counsel. She will assume her new duties upon Pratzel’s retirement in November. Meanwhile, she will continue serving as a staff counsel in the office, a position she has held since January.
“I am pleased Laura Elsbury has accepted the Court’s offer to become chief disciplinary counsel,” Wilson said. “She has a unique blend of experience, both inside and outside the legal profession, that will serve well for not only the office but also all Missouri lawyers and citizens as she takes the helm of our state’s attorney disciplinary system. I also am confident Alan will do all he can in the next few weeks to ensure Laura’s continued success in the position.”
A resident of Ashland, Elsbury earned her bachelor of arts, cum laude, in business administration in 2005 from Stephens College in Columbia and her law degree in 2008 from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Law. She was employed for approximately a decade as a Missouri assistant attorney general, serving in increasingly responsible positions in the office’s agricultural and environmental division, criminal division, financial services division, litigation section, and Medicaid fraud control unit. She then spent more than three years as general counsel for the Missouri Ethics Commission before joining the chief disciplinary counsel’s office.
Prior to becoming a lawyer, Elsbury worked for more than a quarter-century in a variety of banking positions with Commerce Bank N.A. in Columbia, working her way up from a teller to senior vice president and retail branch operations manager. She continued working for the bank as a part-time senior project analyst while she attended law school full-time.
“As a result of all my experiences, from the banking industry through the attorney general’s office, ethics commission and now chief disciplinary counsel’s office, I am excited to take the next step of leading the OCDC,” Elsbury said. “The work the office does is extremely important, and it is correspondingly rewarding. It is a collegial, collaborative workplace staffed with highly qualified professionals, and I am proud to be associated with them.”