“Dr.” Susan Friery was once heralded as a leading plaintiff’s attorney — a combination of a juris doctor and medical doctor. Touting a medical degree from Columbia University, Friery was given a partnership at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which appears not to have actually checked her degree. Her Massachusetts law license has now been suspended for two years. Her medical license has not been suspended because she never had one. She never graduated from medical school.
When she made partner, Kreindler & Kreindler proclaimed:
Dr. Friery is one of only an estimated 2,500 medical doctor/attorneys in the nation, of which less than 100 are representing the rights of victims and their families at plaintiff law firms. Over the last 17 years Dr. Friery has brought her combined legal and medical expertise and skills to bear on hundreds of death and injury cases handled by Kreindler, the nation’s preeminent aviation law firm.
The opinion notes that Friery repeatedly used her claim of a medical license in a variety of professional contexts:
During her tenure at the firm, the respondent made or countenanced false representations as to her credentials, including but not limited to the following particulars:
a) The respondent’s name appeared as “M.D.” or “Dr.” on the firm’s letterhead, business cards, notices of appearance, legal memorandum and other documents filed in numerous courts;
b) On divers times, the respondent was professionally addressed, introduced as, and introduced herself, both orally and in writing, to clients, colleagues, stenographers, firm employees, opposing counsel, medical providers and others as, “Dr. Friery” or as a medical doctor or as a physician;
c) The respondent held herself out to bar associations, bar association committees, and other professional groups as a doctor or physician; and
d) The respondent presented at and attended CLE trial lawyer association seminars and meetings in which she falsely represented that she had graduated from medical school and was a medical doctor.
That claims gave her heightened credibility in her practice and her public work. She was even later selected as Massachusetts’ most beautiful lawyer, which included this description (and a picture that shows that she is as flexible as her résumé):
Susan, a medical consultant and senior associate for Kreindler & Kreindler, handles a variety of mass disaster, personal injury, and medical malpractice litigation. She has worked on hundreds of 9/11 World Trade Center cases, as well as on the settlement for the Pan Am Lockerbie terrorist plan bombing.
Susan loves yoga and volunteers at charities such as Habitat for Humanity.
Friery did take courses in pathology at SUNY Buffalo School of Medicine and worked as a morgue technician, but never graduated from the program. Yet, she claimed to have finished in the top 1 percent of her class at the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Columbia University. She started work as a paralegal at Kreindler & Kreindler LLP, which paid 75% of her tuition to go to New York Law School. She was then hired as an associate and later a partner. It would be interesting to see if she claimed the medical degree with the law school.
What is fascinating is that it is a crime to practice medicine without a license. However, this is not a form of practicing medicine so there appears no criminal charge. Yet, there could be a claim of fraud in holding oneself out to clients as a doctor — a claim that could be viewed as implied as justification for the higher partner rates. Yet, the Massachusetts panel helped her a great deal legally with the following finding:
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. Many of the misrepresentations made or repeated by colleagues or staff as to respondent’s credentials were made without the respondent’s direct participation, although she was generally aware that they were being made. In addition, many of the misrepresentations were made in a context in which they were not material to any specific pending decision or action by a client, adversary or tribunal.
This is truly sad case for everyone involved.