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January 15, 2010 4:37 PM

Former Sidley, Skadden Lawyer Has Suspension Cut in Half

Posted by Zach Lowe

In the spring, we told you about the case of Loren Friedman, a former associate at three Am Law 100 firms who was hit with a three-year suspension for, among other things, altering the grades on his law school transcripts and failing to disclose that he had been kicked out of medical school. Back then, disciplinary authorities in Illinois--where Friedman worked for Sidley Austin as a summer associate in 2002--thought the three-year suspension was, if anything, too lenient. 

A hearing board recommended Friedman, who is now in business school at the University of Illinois, be disbarred or suspended indefinitely. That recommendation spurred a further hearing, the result of which came down on Thursday. And it's a happy one for Friedman: The board hearing his case cut his suspension in half, to 18 months. (Hat tip: The Legal Profession Blog.)

Friedman did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment. The Illinois Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission based their ruling on two things: First, that Friedman admitted everything when it came to light and has since expressed remorse, saying he altered his transcripts from the University of Chicago Law School because his self-esteem was linked to his ability to land a job at a major firm. And second, that Friedman's misdeeds were not quite bad enough to merit disbarment. 

So what exactly has been bad enough, historically, to merit disbarment or an indefinite suspension in Illinois? The board went through some cases it considered more serious than Friedman's. One prospective attorney told his firm that he had gotten into a car crash to cover up the fact that he was interviewing at other firms. Another failed to disclose a name change, three arrests, a felony conviction, and several civil suits against him. Another hid the fact that he had accumulated 297 (!) unpaid parking tickets. A fourth attorney failed to mention 21 prior employers on a job application.

Friedman's acts, the board ruled, did not rise to that level. When he was applying for a summer position at Sidley, Friedman whited out the Cs on his transcript and changed them to Bs, according to the records of his case. The firm hired Friedman and found him impressive; Sidley offered him a job after law school, an offer Friedman declined so he could take a clerkship with a bankruptcy judge. He went on to work at the Delaware office of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom and left after failing the bar twice. He landed a final job as an associate at Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle and resigned in May 2008, when the firm learned of the acts of fraud in his background. 

How did those frauds finally come to light? Friedman wanted a new gig and enlisted a headhunter to circulate his resume--his real resume, with his real grades. The headhunter passed that resume onto a hiring partner at Sidley, who looked at it and was stunned that someone with Friedman's grades landed a summer position at the firm. John Levi, a partner at Sidley, testified at one of Friedman's disciplinary hearings that there was "no way in the world" the firm would have hired him as a summer had they known his real grades. The grade cutoff for Chicago students looking for a summer job at Sidley is about a 77 average, Levi testified. 

Which raises the question: Are such hard cutoff numbers a good idea? Friedman, after all, earned good marks once he got in the door at Sidley. But that's a question for another post.

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