The Am Law Daily took no joy in reading the Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission's recommendation that a former Sidley Austin summer associate who went on to Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle be suspended from practicing law for three years for lying at just about every stage of his career. The attorney, Loren Friedman, appears to be a sad, remorseful man desperate to prove his worthiness.
Friedman now attends business school at the University of Illinois. He resigned from Curtis Mallet-Prevost in May 2008, after the firm learned of the fraud, according to the ARDC's ruling, which you can access here (hat tip: The Legal Profession blog). The most egregious of Friedman's lies -- which he has admitted -- was probably the alteration of his University of Chicago Law School transcripts when he applied to be a summer associate at Sidley in 2001. He altered every completed grade, often inflating C's to B's, by simply whiting out the real grades and typing in new ones. John Levi, a Sidley partner who helps supervise recruiting, testified that there was "no way in the world" Sidley would have extended Friedman an offer if they'd known his real grades. (The firm's numerical grade cutoff for Chicago students is around 77, Levi testified.)
Friedman's lies began well before those transcript alterations. In applying to law school, he failed to disclose that he'd been kicked out of medical school at the University of Illinois (the same school he's hoping to receive a master's degree in Business Administration from) for poor academic performance.
Sadly, Friedman knew his real grades wouldn't get him into Sidley; he faked the transcripts because "he felt he needed to work at a premier law firm to confirm he was successful."
He impressed partners at Sidley during a summer there in 2002, and the firm offered him a full-time spot. He declined, choosing instead to clerk for a federal bankruptcy judge, and declined again when Sidley rolled the offer over for a year.
He landed a gig with Skadden's bankruptcy department in Delaware in 2004, but the firm dismissed him in 2006 after he failed the bar exam twice.
Friedman eventually was admitted in both Illinois and New York, and he worked as an associate at Curtis Mallet in New York. But by 2007, he wanted a new job, and he asked a headhunter in Illinois to circulate his resume -- his real resume, with his real grades. The resume ended up in the hands of Michael Sweeney, a partner at Sidley, and Sweeney asked Levi how someone with Friedman's grades got in the door at Sidley. Levi was surprised by the discrepancies between the resume and the doctored transcripts and contacted Friedman.
Friedman admitted to the fraud and agreed to report them to the state bar associations in Illinois and New York after the Sidley lawyers said they would do so if he refused.
Wendy Muchman, a law professor at Northwestern who argued for the ARDC's administrator, recommended disbarment or an indefinite suspension. Samuel Manella, an Illinois lawyer who represented Friedman, asked for a shorter suspension. (Manella, Muchman, and Friedman did not return calls and e-mails seeking comment.)
What struck The Am Law Daily was how strongly attorneys across the Am Law landscape backed Friedman during the ARDC hearing. Megan Cleghorn, a Skadden associate in Delaware who was senior to Friedman, called him "an extraordinary person of fine character," and said no one at Skadden said anything negative about Friedman once the charges surfaced. John Katsanos, a former Curtis Mallet associate, testified that Friedman "has a very strong reputation for truth and veracity," and that Friedman's rep hadn't taken a hit -- in Katsanos' eyes, at least -- because of the allegations.
Law school classmates and friends, including a McGuireWoods lawyer, also stood up for Friedman.
The kicker: In his application to the University of Illinois business school, Friedman didn't mention the altered transcripts or that he lied on his law school application; he instead contacted a dean of student affairs at the school and outlined the general allegations against him at the ARDC. The dean's reaction? Friedman's failure to disclose on the application didn't matter, since the school "was only interested in matters of a criminal nature."
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.