Ethics Quiz: How Unethical Is This Lawyer?

"Dr." Susan Friery with "Bowser", who for the last ten years has claimed to be a poodle.

Newburyport (Mass.) lawyer Susan Friery, a partner at the New York-based law firm Kreindler & Kreindler, has been suspended from being able to practice law in Massachusetts until February 2014.

Why? Two years..that seems pretty stiff. Well, it seems that from the time she joined the firm as a part-time paralegal and medical consultant in 1986 to her resignation, she represented her self to the firm and its clients as an MD.  Friery joined the law firm in August 1986 . In truth, she had only completed taken four semesters of medical courses at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine, and never got a degree. But she got her entre into the  firm by falsely claiming that she had graduated from another school, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University in New York. In 1989, the firm paid most of her tuition to law school,and by 1993, Friery became an associate, specializing in medical malpractice cases and personal injury law suits with medical injuries. Her name appeared with the title MD or Dr. on the firm’s letterhead, business cards, legal correspondence and other documents filed in numerous courts.

Court documents also show that Friery presented herself as a doctor at seminars and meetings. By 1998, the law firm had included Friery’s alleged medical credentials in its web-based advertising.

Your Ethics Quiz for today, therefore, is this…TWO YEARS??? I’m sorry, let me calm down. <big breath> Ok, here’s the question:

Do you think a suspension of two years for 25 years of falsely holding oneself out to the public as well as colleagues as a medical doctor is sufficient punishment?

I guess I am just permanently and hopeless out of touch with my profession in disciplinary matters, but I don’t understand this at all. The Suffolk County judge who handed down the ruling said,

“There is no indication that the respondent’s misrepresentations had any adverse effect on the quality of the respondent’s work on behalf of the firm and its clients, or that such misrepresentations caused any harm to the firm or its clients.”

Really? She tricked her firm into sending her to law school under false pretenses, She probably got admitted to law school under the representation that she was a doctor, when she was really a serial liar. Her hourly billings were inflated by her claimed expertise….for 25 years!  So the firm made money from her fraud—that’s a mitigating circumstance?

A Massachusetts lawyer is asking for discipline when her conduct calls into question her “honesty, trustworthiness or fitness as a lawyer in other respects.” (Rule 8.3). Friery hit the Trifecta. This wasn’t one lie; this was a quarter century of them. Is this a sign that lawyers don’t take other professions seriously? An individual who pretended to be a lawyer for 25 years could graduate from Harvard as editor of the Law Review and get a perfect on his bar exam, and I bet he’d have as much of a chance of ever practicing in Massachusetts as I have of playing shortstop for the Red Sox.

I hesitate to advocate disbarring her; taking way her livelihood forever is harsh…but I won’t argue with anyone who insists on it, either. Or was the court fair and reasonable?

Would you ever trust Susan Friery to be your lawyer?

 

24 Comments

Filed under Character, Professions

24 responses to “Ethics Quiz: How Unethical Is This Lawyer?

  1. Julian Hung

    I’m not a fan of Scarlett Letter-type punishments, but I’m wondering whether they should be applied towards professional-based misrepresentation. Hell, drug commercials already have to advertise side-effects.

  2. Arthur in Maine

    Nice looking Labrador. Pity that it got used as a prop.

    In answer to question, this woman should lose her bar admission permanently.

    Maybe she could finish med school to pay the bills. I hear there’s big money to be made in scanning emails and prescribing lifestyle-enhancing drugs online.

  3. I’m thinking maybe the Mass bar gave her Brownie points for being flexible. Her ethics are certainly flexible…

  4. Michael

    Maybe this will make you feel better about it. A physician in Texas is being charged with defrauding Medicare for over $300 million. He faces a fine of $250,000.

    Ok, I’m sure he could face a stiffer penalty, but that is how the news article presented it.

  5. Interested Blogger

    Of course she should be disbarred! But (excuse my sarcasm, please) this is Massachusetts. I’m actually surprised they sanctioned her for a whole 2 years. After all … she allegedly did a good job while she was scamming everyone. No, I’m not laughing or approving. I’m disgusted. And why are there not criminal charges applicable for impersonating a doctor? She may not have been dispensing prescription medications, but she was probably billing for medical opinions.

    • Melissa

      The 2 year sanction was her employer’s idea. Convenient, since they nor her did the reporting. She went before Federal Courts, deposed doctors, used her influence all as a dr and they wanted a rug sweep as she terrorized employees.

  6. Sue

    I just read this woman’s biography which had been posted online by the firm in which she was employed. I am doing my best not to hyperventilate. According to her biography, not only did she graduate from medical school at the very top of her class but she was also a principle dancer and soloist for the New York City Ballet! Seriously? This is all a big joke, right?

  7. Mike Martin

    Where is the sanction for the individual at the law firm who hired her? The simple act of having her sign the release form to vet her resume should have sent her for the exit. This fraud was aided and abetted by those who did not do their jobs.

    And where were the opposing attorneys who should have been checking the credentials of the opposition?

    • I think I can fairly say that checking your opposition’s credentials is virtually unheard of. The profession is based on trust and honesty. Believe it or not, attorneys assume adversaries are honorable unless there is reason to think otherwise.

      • Mike Martin

        But Jack, she came to the hiring firm touting her MD credentials. They hired her and put her to work on things with a medical component to them. They eventually paid her tuition to law school so she could say “..and now I are one.” From the original application to work, to the applications to law school, to the elevation to associate and then to partner, no one picked up a telephone and checked anything.

        The law office has only themselves to blame for the expenditure of funds for law school. But was there another law clerk with a lesser bio, but an honest one, who was denied the tuition support in favor of this lady? How about clients who may have selected this firm because of the trumped-up credentials and maybe did not get the results they had been promi9sed… could that have been remedied if a real doctor was part of the legal team? We will probably never know any of these answers.

        Its just a wild guess on my part, but if a bridge fell down and hurt someone and in the legal wranglings that follow such things it was discovered that the engineer on the project was really only an apprentice draftsman who took a trigonometry course, the lawyers would attack the engineering firm for not verifying the credentials of the faux-engineer.

        • It’s a very valid point. Firms traditionally did not check credentials; the assumption is that the law school does a thorough job, and employment records are checked. And you’re right: the law firm is accountable here, and she was let off incredibly lightly. “No harm” is a fanciful ruling at best.

      • Melissa

        The law firm itself NEVER checked her credentials. That’s unheard of when you’re making someone partner, sending them to congress to testify, etc. You check. Her resume was written by a 10 year old, not a Columbia Med Student. Wasn’t hard to figure out but for her personal involvements w/partners.

    • Karl Penny

      Did whoever hired her read, Imean, really read, her bio? A crackerjack lawyer, a top-of-her-class MD, and a principal dancer and soloist for a major ballet company. Given that all of those are demanding and time-consuming occupations, I would like to think that presented with such a bio by a job applicant, I would have questions even prior to checking her out; beginning with, “Has this woman discovered the 36-hour day?”

  8. Dwayne N. Zechman

    Where’s the AMA on this? Just because the Massachusetts attorney community doesn’t think much of impersonating a doctor doesn’t mean that the medical community agrees.

    Then again, from the medical side, there *is* no license to suspend.

    –Dwayne

  9. The next one to be investigated should be that judge. If he sees that little in the way of misconduct and professional deceit from this woman to render such a verdict, others might well wonder as to what professional foundation he himself subscribes to.

  10. Frank Rodriguez

    This woman was very unpleasant to work with. She would come into the office wearing scrubs and said “she was making rounds at the hospital.” She is a NUT JOB. She also slept around (yes, as ugly as she is, she was a slut). She had an affair w/a partner for years. I agree with criminal charges being brought against her.

    • Melissa

      He’s right. She was a loon. She was “always working at the hospital”. She played Dr. but when you’d ask a question she didn’t know an ankle from a patella. She should be arrested. She’s dangerous. She slept with partners, bragged about it, and made anyone life’s hell if they wouldn’t sleep with her and sex toysl.

  11. Matt Jones

    The FRAUD continues! Friery aka “Mowbray” is now “Peoplenpaws.com” and AGAIN advising people as a “medical/vetererinary AND nutritional CONSULTANT”!!!! RUKM???? Maybe she’ll fly planes in her spare time, then the firm who made her partner will notice. And why? Because criminal charges were NEVER brought and she was protected. Anyone who buys the firm “never knew” is either naive or stupid. She won’t stop until she hurts someone.

  12. john

    Is this the female version of “Catch Me If You Can”? I worked at the Firm in NY where she worked and am totally stunned by this. Wow, she used to say, I have to leave now to go to the hospital. Now it turns out a Nurse knew more medical stuff than she did. Amazing!

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