New York Personal Injury Law Blog » Interesting Cases in the News


January 22nd, 2007

Paralegal Poses As Attorney at New York White-Shoe Firm

From today’s New York Times (reg. req.):

STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 21 — During the past two years, when Brian T. Valery was representing a Stamford drug company in connection with product liability lawsuits involving the painkiller OxyContin, William E. McGrath Jr., a lawyer for one of the plaintiffs, found Mr. Valery “unduly aggressive” but never questioned his abilities.

In another case, Steven Maass, who hired Mr. Valery’s former law firm, Anderson Kill & Olick, after Mr. Maass‘s electronic trading business was destroyed in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, thought Mr. Valery unimpressive but chalked it up to inexperience.

But it turned out that Mr. Valery, who billed roughly $300 an hour as he deposed insurance executives and coordinated the testimony of two expert witnesses from Harvard Law School, had never actually been admitted to the bar. Or, for that matter, attended law school, something that eluded his colleagues at Anderson Kill, one of Manhattan’s white-shoe law firms, not to mention the editors of journals for which he co-wrote articles on environmental law and property insurance.

Mr. Valery has not explained himself publicly and has been referring questions to a criminal lawyer, Joseph R. Conway, who declined to comment about the case but was quick to reassure a reporter about his own credentials. You can check me,” he said. “I’m a real lawyer.”

The first interesting thing to note is that legal credentials in New York can be checked on the web in a matter of seconds at this link to the Office of Court Administration.

And the second interesting thing is that, in New York, impersonating an attorney is only a misdemeanor. Now that’s a criminal statute that could use some updating.

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