Providing A Voice to People Who Need One
Giving a voice to a person is what Susan Faunce is all about. Fulfilling a childhood dream, this mother of two became a lawyer so she could help people speak and be heard.
A native of South Korea, she had just moved to Maine (her father’s home state), when, at seven years old, she watched her parents go through a divorce. Her mom spoke little English. “One day my mother walked down Lisbon Street in Lewiston to find a divorce lawyer,” Susan recalled, and “she found Fredda Wolf. I would go with my mother to all of her meetings with Fredda and also to court because I was the only one able to translate for her.”
For Susan, seeing this professional woman in action was a powerful experience: Fredda “looked powerful to me in her suit, and when she spoke, she spoke with confidence, and people listened to her. Best of all, she was giving my mother a voice.”
Today, Susan is considered a leader in the legal profession. She joined the law firm Berman & Simmons in 2006 representing mainly personal injury and medical negligence cases. Craig Bramley, Managing Partner contended, “When she came to Berman & Simmons, it was clear that she was smart and hard working. Susan draws on her personal strength and strong moral compass to simultaneously grow as a lawyer and person and serve her clients.”
Susan’s personal strength began early. The first five years of her life were what she calls a simple life. “I remember living in a village and being able to roam around with all the other kids from dawn until dusk. I have seen photos of me taking a bath in big rubber tubs probably because we only had a single water source for a number of homes. I remember sleeping on ondal (heated) floors and co-sleeping with my mother until we moved to America.”
She recalled her mother’s ingenuity in making household repairs. “I remember having Korean hanji paper doors and watching my mom often repair them using sticky white rice because the paper would rip.” Another memory remains vivid. “I also remember going to the market with my mom and my grandparents and being excited for treats such as pig’s feet and silkworm!”
One of Susan’s mentors, Helen Pelletier, claimed it was Susan’s mother who gave her children love and support. “She gave Susan deep roots and strong wings,” said Pelletier.
Helen met Susan while she was attending Lewiston High School. “I was accepted into the Upward Bound program for first generation college-bound students,” said Susan. “Helen, then Upward Bound Director, suggested I consider Bowdoin.”
“It was pretty clear that Susan was extremely intelligent and highly motivated, in a totally unassuming, quiet, and level-headed way. From the start, she was interested in taking advantage of opportunities and exploring possibilities beyond what was available to her.” Helen went on, “At Bowdoin, she kept opening doors and windows for herself.”
One of those doors was going back to her birthplace. “I studied in Seoul my junior year at Bowdoin,” Susan said, “and then I spent the summer with my uncle in Pusan (my mother’s hometown).” This visit allowed time for reflection. Susan realized, “I was very fortunate and thankful that my mom wanted me to be educated in the American system. She knew that I would have many more opportunities here in America than in Korea, where socioeconomic class essentially determines your opportunities.”
As an American citizen, Susan had the advantage of knowing Korean, French, and Moroccan Arabic. She learned Moroccan when she worked as an Education Volunteer in the Peace Corps in Morocco.
After college, she worked as a paralegal in a large Boston firm focusing on biopharmaceutical litigation. On her return to Maine, she earned her law degree from the University of Maine School of Law, and briefly clerked in the Lewiston District Court, before joining Berman & Simmons.
In addition, Susan has risen to leadership roles in state and national trial lawyer organizations. She has been recognized by Super Lawyers as a “Rising Star” and named to Benchmark Litigation’s “Under 40 Hot List,” which is where teams conduct peer-reviewed surveys to find best and brightest law firm partners who stand out in their practice areas. She also serves on the Board of Governors for the American Association for Justice and sits on the Maine State Bar Association Board of Governors as the Women’s Law Section representative.
Fellow attorney Jodi Nofsinger spoke of Susan’s dedication. “She is doggedly determined to get things right and is passionately devoted to what she puts her mind to. She can be tough as nails, yet kind and thoughtful. She seems to be fearless about pointing out pitfalls she sees and is methodical about exploring and solving problems. It takes great strength and bravery to see problems and not choose to find a way around them instead of through them.”
Because of her determination to do what’s right and her fascination with human anatomy, an intense side-area of study for her, she said, “I have an opportunity to delve into medical science and really learn about an issue. In my cases involving defective medical devices and drugs, I feel like I have the opportunity to ensure that corporations develop, manufacture, and market products or drugs that are safe for consumers.”
Susan claimed her greatest challenge comes when she isn’t able to help someone. “The medical malpractice system is stringent in Maine. These cases are complex and require extensive resources. Sometimes, I have people come to me because a loved one suddenly passed away. They want an answer as to what happened, and I cannot provide them with one. It’s always heartbreaking to hear people’s stories and hear how their lives have been completely upended. It’s even more heartbreaking when I have to tell them that there is nothing I can do for them.”
Susan’s greatest successes are helping people, “My proudest moments are when I feel like I have helped someone to have a voice.”