The Lawyer is In

Greg Fliszar’s training in psychology pays dividends

Published in 2005 Pennsylvania Rising Stars — December 2005

When it comes to assessing a client’s state of mind, Greg Fliszar has an advantage over other attorneys. It’s not as if he can read minds, but he does possess insight about the mental condition that others do not. He’s a clinical psychologist. And this can come in handy.

One case in particular stands out. “It was a pro bono case involving an immigrant,” Fliszar says. “After coming to this country, he developed a significant psychiatric illness. As a result, he became homeless and his immigration documents were either lost or stolen. We’ve been trying to get those back to him.”

Thanks to his training, Fliszar was able to foster a rapport with the 24-year old Ethiopian, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. “This is where a background in clinical psychology is helpful,” he says. “Because I understood his psychiatric symptoms, I was able to gain his trust. Therefore, I could understand all of the issues he was dealing with more readily.” Today, the man is doing well, living with a brother in the area and actively treating his illness.

The 39-year-old Fliszar’s transition from psychology to law came out of a sense of pragmatism and expediency. In the 1990s, he was a clinical psychologist at Hahnemann University Hospital, part of the Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation’s integrated health-care system serving Pennsylvania. By 1998, however, the system, saddled by enormous debt, was bankrupt. Floating in the wake of the collapse were shards of shattered dreams and sundered medical careers. The more resilient medical professionals, such as Fliszar, were able to change careers while remaining involved in the medical world.

Fliszar, who earned his doctorate in clinical psychology from Texas Tech University in 1994, enjoyed his career as a clinician and wasn’t looking to leave the profession. “I loved working with the patients,” he says. But after Allegheny collapsed, he was forced to knock on new doors in the industry. It didn’t go well. “I only had about five years of experience, and I wasn’t really established yet, so it was very discouraging,” he admits.

A colleague suggested health-care law. “I had never considered law, but the more I thought about it the more it made sense,” he says. He entered the University of Pittsburgh School of Law in 1998, graduating in 2001. He spent a few years at Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll before joining Pepper Hamilton last year as an associate.

A member of the firm’s corporate and securities practice and health-care services groups, he spends most of his time consulting with health systems and physicians groups on licensing and compliance issues. He enjoys the law and finds great satisfaction in bringing his expertise from his former profession to his new one. “Knowing the health care industry helps me come up with creative solutions,” he says.

And he still retains that compassion for helping people that initially drew him to psychology. A man from Africa who needed a hand finding his way in America will attest to that.

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