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April 22, 2009 3:19 PM

Former Sidley, Skadden, Curtis Mallet Lawyer Suspended for Three Years

Posted by Zach Lowe

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 frauds 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."

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This is wild, however, the notion that a U of C student needed to be a top student to work at Sidley is ...

I don't condone his actions and I would never lie on my resume, so since there is 'no way in the world' for me to get an offer, what should I do?

This guy definitely has the cred to be an attorney...Kudos!!

Work somewhere else. Believe it or not, there is life after Sidley.

Law firms place too much emphasis on grades. The Sidley partner says that there is no way that Friedman could have gotten an offer at Sidley because of his grades. This is silly because Friedman still managed to impress the partners at Sidley while he worked there. I wouldn't be surprised if other C students at a school like Chicago could be equally impressive.

I definitely will not condone Loren's actions, but I will say that the pointlessly opaque grading system that Chicago used during our time there almost left us with no option other than to change our grades.

Do you know how difficult it is to explain to a hiring attorney that a 79 is actually a very high grade? I went into interviews with a transcript showing a 78 average (not great, but above the mean of 77) and got treated like a slow adult! Our grading system at the time went from 70 to 85. The school enforced a strict curve that set the mean at a 77. In the school's history I believe two people have received an 85 and one of them is currently on the Supreme Court! No consideration was given to the optical problem with the grading system until 2003, when a "1" was added (making the mean a 177) so that the Chicago grading system could not be confused with the standard 100-point scale used by 99% of schools in this country. They finally realized that busy interviewers did not have the time or interest to read the fine print on the back of the transcript (if anyone bothered to even print the back) explaining the grading system.

I should sue the school for their grading system. It definitely cost me a 1L summer job. My damages are 10 weeks of work at $1800/week plus the cost of free lunches at Nobu. Any other disgruntled Chicago grades want to join in a class action?

This guy needs to be disbarred, not suspended. And, the University of Illinois should show him the door as well. If he has done these blatantly dishonest things already, imagine what he will do out in the business world.

So the guy who did not meet Sidley standards made himself into an outstanding attorney at Sidley.

So much for you standards Sidley.

Kudos to Sidley for taking the high road, if that is what they did

"was only interested in matters of a criminal nature."

lol, as if FRAUD doesn't count

kid has balls though

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