Quadrant Chambers chief: we hired O’Riordan on his reputation, not his CV

Quadrant Chambers’ chief executive has defended the bar’s recruitment processes following revelations that former chambers member Tom O’Riordan had lied about his qualifications.

Tom O’Riordan was forced to leave Paul Hastings last week after it was discovered the former Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft partner and Quadrant Chambers and Gray’s Inn Square Chambers barrister had falsified parts of his CV (4 October 2013).

But Quadrant Chambers chief executive Tim Gerrard told The Lawyer that the chambers’ recruitment process would continue to hang on reputation and word-of-mouth recommendations of barristers rather than academic background checks. 

Gerrard, who arrived at the set in 2009 after O’Riordan had left for Cadwalader, said the issue “gives everybody cause to stop and think” but added: “I think as far as this set is concerned it wouldn’t change what we do other than it reminds me that where qualifications are particularly important then maybe things should be looked at.”

He added: “Law firms are bigger, they’ve got huge resources and I’ve no doubt they have fairly slick routines. For other sets it’s probably exactly the same position as Quadrant, they’re thinking ‘gosh that’s unusual, we need to bear that in mind going forward and learn lessons if it seems appropriate given who we’re trying to hire’.”

Gerrard said O’Riordan’s reputation had been more important than his academic references to the chambers.

“When Tom came to us, he came with an impeccable client track record so to be honest we weren’t desperately interested in checking his academic documents,” said Gerrard. “Just because Tom didn’t have the qualifications he claimed, it doesn’t mean he wasn’t a barrister. He was highly competent.”  

Gerrard said academic document checks had not been performed on any of the four lateral hires since his recruitment due to the weight of their reputations and the fact that most of them were so well-known to chambers beforehand.

We didn’t bother to investigate them because frankly it wsn’t really necessary from our point of view,” he said.

There aren’t that many barristers around that have the skill set that we want, so it’s unthinkable that anyone would come to us that we wouldn’t have some knowledge of.”

He also said that most chambers did not have the capacity to conduct full checks on barristers’ backgrounds before hiring them.

The bar is very different environment to a big corporate,” he said. “There you might even hire a company to do a confidential audit on a CV for you and that would be pretty normal practice. That would be almost unheard of at the bar, not least because there’s no HR function.”

With a chambers you’re merely inviting them to come and join you, you’re not even hiring them,” he added.