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January 11, 2007

Law Firm Employee Is Accused
Of Posing as a Lawyer in Court

NY Times

STAMFORD, Conn., Jan. 10 — A man who prosecutors said had been representing clients of a prominent New York law firm for two years was arrested here on Wednesday and charged with impersonating a lawyer, state prosecutors said.

The man, Brian T. Valery, 32, of Massapequa Park, N.Y., surrendered to the authorities and was charged with perjury, which carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, and practicing law without being a lawyer, a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of two months, according to David I. Cohen, the state’s attorney for the judicial district. Mr. Valery was released and must appear in State Superior Court on Jan. 24.

A call to Mr. Valery’s home was returned by his lawyer, Joseph R. Conway, who declined to comment.

The arrest came as a blow to Mr. Valery’s former employer, the New York firm of Anderson Kill & Olick, which said it had been scouring its records for several weeks so it could notify clients who might be due refunds as a result of being billed for Mr. Valery’s work.

“We notified our clients, informed the appropriate authorities and terminated Mr. Valery,” said Dawn Gertz, the firm’s chief marketing officer. People with knowledge of the case said Mr. Valery was hired as a paralegal by the firm in 1996.

In 2004, they said, he told his superiors that he had graduated from Fordham University Law School and had passed the bar exam. After that, the firm referred to him as an associate on its Web site, stationery and bills to clients.

In 2005, he went to Stamford as part of a group of Anderson lawyers representing Purdue Pharma L.P., which makes the drug OxyContin. He asked the court for permission to appear as an out-of-state lawyer in a suit against Purdue by one of its insurers, Steadfast Insurance, Mr. Cohen said.

In his application, he certified that he had “acquired specialized skill and knowledge with respect to the Purdue defendants’ insurance coverage important to the trial” of the case.

“Turns out he was not an attorney,” Mr. Cohen said.

According to The Connecticut Law Tribune, the initial tip that Mr. Valery might not be what he appeared to be came from a college friend who spotted his name on Anderson Kill’s roster of lawyers and notified the firm that something was amiss. By then, the litigation that had brought Mr. Valery to Connecticut had been settled.

The people with knowledge of the case confirmed the accuracy of The Law Tribune’s account.

James W. Heins, a spokesman for Purdue, said the company’s lawyers told him they did not think that Mr. Valery’s involvement had any bearing on the outcome of the suit, which was settled out of court.