Paralegal Falsely Posing As Lawyer Wins 50 Cases

Now here’s an interesting situation:  Brian Valery, a paralegal working for Anderson, Kill, a pretty large firm in Washington, D.C. ups and decides he’s going to tell his colleagues and supervisors that he’s going to law school.  After a time, he decides he’s going to let them know he passed the bar.  Impressed with his work and obviously in good with the partners, the firm hires Valery as an associate. 

All is going well for about two years.  So good, in fact, that Valery wins 50 cases for the firm. Come to find out, not only did Valery not pass the bar, he never even earned a law degree. Now, a New York judge has sentenced Valery to five years of probation.  He must also return the $225,000 he earned from insurance-litigation firm Anderson Kill & Olick and serve 100 hours community service, the New York Post reported Thursday.

If this weren’t so serious, it might be funny.  Does that mean that you don’t really need a law degree, that being a paralegal is sufficient?  I mean, 50 wins in two years is pretty darn impressive!  For every attorney who has ever put down a paralegal, take that!  And that!  We don’t even know if Valery received paralegal training and certainly, asking him won’t produce an acceptable answer.

It seems to me that the assignment level at which Valery performed as an "attorney " was actually that of a paralegal (since he had no law school degree).  Yet he was paid the salary of a staff attorney. The firm really ought to be looking at its job descriptions for attorneys.  Are its attorneys working at dummied down levels?  Should their work really be assigned to paralegals?  And, of course, should those paralegals be paid salaries at the staff attorney level?  How does the client feel to know that its cases were won by a paralegal?  Should they have to pay full fees for like-cases won by real attorneys in the firm?  Hmmmm…..Interesting questions. 


4 Replies to “Paralegal Falsely Posing As Lawyer Wins 50 Cases”

  1. “He must also return the $225,000 he earned from insurance-litigation firm Anderson Kill & Olick”

    Will the firm also be ordered to return this sum to the clients Valery represented?

    Rules such as this are idiotic. A law degree, or even law school, should not be necessary to take the Bar exam. Competency should be all that counts, and if one is competent without taking graduating from law school or even without passing the bar, this should be recognized. What right does any government have to mandate wrongheaded requirements as the [b]sole[/b] entrance criteria to a profession? How many unworthy people scrape in via cheating or barely make it in on their own merits, and how many worthy people don’t make it in due to ability lacks who would have made excellent attorneys, medical doctors, etc…?

  2. I agree. Competency should be all that matters. Problem is, if that were the case, how many attorney’s would lose their license, and should. As I have mentioned before, the ABA is the only legally sanction monopoly in the United States. Too bad it isn’t feasible for all paralegals to simply quit working for lawyers and demonstrate, picket, and strike on the same level as Jimmie Hoffa did for the union.

  3. You seem to be missing a key point. Who cares how good he was? He’s a liar. So much for trust.

    I think the firm should be held accountable for not verifying his credentials. They’re responsible for making sure their clients are PROPERLY represented, are they not?

    Don’t law firms follow up on job applicants who claim they got a degree or some other form of credentials?

  4. Just a few points to consider:

    1. There may be little correlation between what one learns in school – even “Paralegal School” and what happens in an actual practice.

    2. Passing any exam does not guarantee competency – let alone integrity, even a paralegal exam.

    3. Having “years of experience” may mean repeating the first year many times or actually acquiring cumulative useful knowledge. (Many people slip by year to year due to connections, etc…)

    4. “Winning a case” may be subjective – especially if the work is transactional vs. getting a jury verdict. And putting in 70 hours/week does not say anything about the quality of time. (Some work smarter vs. harder)

    5. Would a woman paralegal have been able to “get away” with this without having been given greater scrutiny, even less responsibility and surely less pay….

    For those who “played by the rules” and were nickel and dimed while investing in ones education, qualification testing, continuing education, association membership,–a feeling of betrayal by para-professionalization, off-shore outsourcing, new law schools (maybe paralegal schools) in China, off-shore tax credits, –surely is understandable.

    I like the saying “The Change We Need”, it is more specific. Change is not always beneficial to those paying for it (e.g., off-shore tax credits to pay for our jobs to go overseas, Bar dues to establish more law schools when there seems to be fewer living wage “law related” jobs to go around.)

    It’s funny how some are so worried about giving oil money to other countries but not jobs – that which pays for the oil. And do not tell me that more jobs are coming into the US than going out – nor that the quality of US jobs is improving, I’m not that naive.

    The bottom line: we just want to be treated fairly don’t we?. To some that means:
    a. fewer lawyers-more paralegals doing lawyer work,
    b. fewer employees more low wage contractors & temps (without benefits or retirement)
    c. fewer US workers more low wage foreign workers – without labor & environmental law issues
    d. fewer people working more technology doing the work where there are fewer laws
    –The list goes one…..

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