A large, well-respected law firm recently learned the hard way that you cannot always accept at face value the qualifications of those who apply for employment as attorneys.
Law.com reports that Brian Valery passed himself off as a Fordham Law School graduate and an attorney admitted to practice law in New York. He had worked for Anderson, Kill & Olick, PA since 1996. The problem? He never attended law school and was not admitted to the bar of any state.
Only a telephone call to Anderson Kill from one of Valery's college friends tipped the New York firm off to Valery's deceit, according to an investigation conducted by Connecticut Chief Disciplinary Counsel Mark A. Dubois. The friend apparently couldn't find Valery's name among registered New York lawyers, but found him listed as an Anderson Kill attorney. The call raised red flags at Anderson Kill.
The incident has caused problems for Anderson, Kill, which has engaged special ethics counsel to help it deal with the situation.
The lesson here applies to all professional service firms. How many law firms, accounting firms, engineers, architects, and medical practices actually take the the trouble to confirm the training and licensure of those who apply for jobs as professionals? Stories like this one come up occasionally, so while the problem is rare, it would be unwise to dismiss it as a complete aberration. The legal ramifications of hiring someone who is not appropriately licensed can be extreme. And the public relations issues that arise can be just as damaging to a firm's reputation.
Asking applicants for proof of their professional training and licensure is the smart thing to do.