Madeline Lee Bryer, P.C.  Attorneys at Law Victim Rights Madeline Lee Bryer, P.C.  Attorneys at Law Victim Rights
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Madeline Lee Bryer, P.C.  Attorneys at Law Victim Rights Madeline Lee Bryer, P.C.  Attorneys at Law Victim Rights
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ONCE A VICTIM, NOW SHE FIGHTS FOR OTHERS IN COURT
New York Law Journal, January 24, 2000

MADELINE Bryer knows how hard it can be to find an attorney knowledgeable about crime victims' legal issues and sensitive to their emotional needs.

Twenty years ago, Ms. Bryer, now a plaintiff's negligence attorney in Manhattan who concentrates on advocacy for crime victims, was sexually assaulted by a superintendent at her work place. Along with a criminal suit, Ms. Bryer, then a social worker, searched long and hard to find a good attorney to handle a civil suit against Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, her employer.

"It was a very traumatic experience. I had trouble finding an attorney who could understand that I was functioning but that I suffered an injury," said Ms. Bryer, who after the assault became active in organizations advocating for victims' rights, such as the Downstate Coalition for Crime Victims.

With the money recovered from her civil suit, Ms. Bryer enrolled in Brooklyn Law School, intent on using her personal experience, her social work skills and the legal system to advocate for crime victims in the courtrooms and the Legislature.

After graduating from law school in 1986, and working for a couple of years for attorney Philip M. Damashek, and then for Wilson, Elser, Moskowitz, Edelman & Dicker, she struck out on her own to focus on recovering money for crime victims.

Even though Ms. Bryer said that money does not get rid of the pain, money does give victims new opportunities. "I was only able to go to law school when I realized that I was coming into money from a civil suit. I was able to get an education that was not available to me before," said Ms. Bryer. "That's the whole civil system. It doesn't replace or repair what happens, but it somehow gives you something that you didn't have before that hopefully can add something to your life," she said.

Shared History
She said that all of her experiences helped her better understand her clients. For example, Ms. Bryer freely tells-her clients that she too was sexually assaulted, and even has it written on her resume. "I am more understanding of what their fears are," she said. "Clients see that I survived, and it gives them hope."

Now 13 years after starting her own practice, Ms. Bryer has won large verdicts for victims of rape, lead poisoning and assault, at least six of which were over $1 million dollars. She recovered one of her larger sums in 1996 from New York City, when she won $2.4 million for four children who were injured due to lead exposure caused, in part, from the City's delay in making repairs.

Currently, she is representing a woman against her employer, Dunkin' Donuts. The suit alleges that Dunkin' Donuts created an unsafe workplace by allowing her client, who was raped, to work in the middle of the night, alone and unprotected.

And, in a highly publicized case, Ms. Bryer is representing a gay banker who is suing his former employer, Dresdner Bank, which is based in Germany. The Harvard- and Yale-educated banker, groomed to become a vice-president in the bank's North American branch, alleged that he was fired because of his sexual orientation.

Slow Start
Ms. Bryer, who has multiple inkwells decorating her simple, private office across from Grand Central Terminal, said that she takes on only large cases. Although her 25 current cases she got by word of mouth, that was not always the case.

For the first four years as a solo practitioner, Ms. Bryer struggled. She advertised to no avail in small newspapers, worked on her own cases at night and on the weekends, and earned money from handling 18-B cases. She worked out of her two-room studio in Manhattan, while renting a space on Wall Street for client meetings.

One of her first cases was against a nightclub, The Tunnel, where a young woman claimed she was raped in the club's unisex, multi-stall bathroom. In 1992, Ms. Bryer settled with The Tunnel for $1 million.

She said that it took her four years "just to round that corner," and to finally have a profitable business. Now Ms. Bryer no longer works in her apartment, and she has two full-time associates who help prepare her cases.

Although some might say she is merely seeking deep pockets when she names as defendants the City or other responsible third parties, she would disagree. Ms. Bryer referred to her work, in an editorial to the New York Law Journal last November, as "a matter of proper lawyering on the part of plaintiff's counsel.... [For example,] if the City is negligent in the discharge of voluntarily assumed obligation, an attorney would be less than vigilant if the City were not named as a defendant."

Ms. Bryer, a first-generation American whose Austrian-born parents fled Hitler, also advocates and lobbies for crime victims outside of her practice. Her walls are adorned with newspaper articles that discuss her cases and a 1990 certificate of appreciation for her role on the Mayor's Task Force Against Sexual Assault from 1986 to 1993.

"It's challenging work because you are trying to obtain justice not only for your client but also trying to obtain justice for those who follow," said Ms. Bryer. "Negligence and discrimination, these are just words, but they really can devastate a person's life."

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