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?