Lawyer, Schmawyer: Did he Win the Case?
As a lawyer who has spent the past decade trying to pretend that I am not an attorney, I find the story of Brian T. Valery priceless. Here is a man who allegedly is not an attorney but who succeeded for years at pretending that he was one. He surrendered to authorities yesterday and charged with perjury and practicing law without a license.
Apparently, the man was hired by a law firm in 1996 as a paralegal. Eight years later, he told his firm that he had passed the bar exam. How and why the firm did not independently confirm this is a mystery. But then Valery began to practice law like a real grown-up attorney. And the best part? No one really noticed for quite some time. In fact, if you ask me, The New York Times, which ran the story today, buried the lede when Alison Leigh Cowan concluded her article by noting that Valery's involvement in one particularly significant case did not, accoridng to the client, have "any bearing on the outcome of the suit."
This story simply proves what honest attorneys and paralegals and secretaries have known for years-- that you often don't really need a law degree to provide decent legal services to a client and that sometimes "the staff" can do a better job than the partners. That doesn't mean to say I advocate lying to clients and the courts and defrauding everyone. Baby paralegals-- don't try this at home! But, still, to the extent that Valery's Quest chopped the bar down a notch or so I am all for him. And I might even tell him that one day-- in a letter to prison. The perjury charge brings with it a maximum five year sentence.
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