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Updated: June 13, 2022 On the record

On the Record: New Maine plaintiffs' bar leader aims to help courts recover from pandemic backlog

PHOTO / JIM NEUGER Susan Faunce, a partner with Lewiston-based law firm Berman & Simmons, is the new president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association. She is shown here in the firm’s Portland office.

Susan Faunce, a partner with Berman & Simmons who heads the Lewiston-based law firm’s mass tort practice, was recently named president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association. Mainebiz caught up with the Bowdoin College and University of Maine School of Law alumna to find out more about her multicultural background and law practice.

Mainebiz: What was it like growing up in Lewiston after spending the first five years of your life in Seoul, South Korea?

Susan Faunce: At first it was very difficult to adjust. I felt like an outsider and had many experiences with racism. Because my mom’s English was limited, people would often dismiss her or treat her poorly, and that was very difficult for me to watch. Fortunately, I was able to make good friends in middle and high school. I still keep in touch with some of them today.

MB: What first sparked your ambition to become a lawyer?

SF: My parents divorced when I was seven years old. At the time, my mom barely spoke English and had to navigate a foreign legal system. She was represented by a female attorney, Fredda Wolf. Watching Fredda advocate for my mom made me realize that lawyers could provide a voice to people who felt lost, unheard or overwhelmed in a complicated legal system. I am truly honored to be able to help people at some of the most difficult times of their lives.

MB: From your time as a Peace Corps volunteer in Morocco, what did you learn?

SF: No matter how different people may seem externally, we all have commonalities. I spent many hours with my Moroccan women friends drinking mint tea, joking or dancing. In spending time with them, I learned that we all value our families, friends and communities. I also learned to never take my freedom as a woman in this country for granted.

MB: What attracted you to the medical malpractice area?

SF: I initially was drawn to being a trial lawyer after I took a trial practice class in law school which led me to be on the trial team. As a result, I was offered a position at Berman & Simmons and started working on medical malpractice cases. I enjoy working on medical malpractice cases because I find them intellectually challenging and enjoy learning the science of each case.

The cases we work on involve people who have suffered the death of a loved one, loss of limbs or caring for a loved one who has significant physical and cognitive deficits. When we obtain results for clients, we can see the direct impact on their lives such as buying a new house or vehicle to accommodate their physical needs or being able to access therapies or medical care not covered by insurance.

MB: What impact has the pandemic and depositions on Zoom had on your practice?

SF: Depositions and medical malpractice hearings now take place on Zoom. Initially, I had to quickly learn technology to be able to show and mark exhibits. Now that Zoom is integrated into our practices, we have all adjusted and increased efficiency; I no longer have to spend an entire day flying to and from New York City for a three-hour deposition.

MB: Do you see the civil case backlog easing anytime soon?

SF: Unfortunately, no. Civil cases are second priority to criminal cases and there is a tremendous backlog of criminal cases. The court systems in Maine were already quite fragile before the pandemic, as they were underfunded and under-resourced. The pandemic only heightened these issues. One of my priorities as president of the Maine Trial Lawyers Association is to provide as much support as needed to the courts to ensure that they are able to function at full capacity both in the short- and long-term.

MB: What’s your advice to young people considering a career in law today?

SF: Be ready for a demanding but rewarding career. Most law careers involve work that never ends even on weekends, vacations, etc., so be certain that you are passionate about entering this field. If you plan to have a law career and family, having an understanding and supportive partner is key.

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