What lies in the past of a job-seeking lawyer

When it came to getting a job at prominent law firms, Jeffrey Doss-Lindsey did not so much sell himself as completely reinvent himself.

Over a three-year period, he fooled The Law Society, senior solicitors, recruitment companies and, ultimately, himself with a fictitious background and a litany of lies.

From 1992 to 1995 he was employed by and then thrown out of Slaughter and May, White & Case and Allison & Humphreys.

Looking for work through recruitment companies, he produced a CV which claimed he had a first-class Oxford degree, had been admitted to the Californian Bar and was a prestigious Fulbright scholar.

Once he was accepted as a trainee by Slaughters in 1992 he went further. He forged the signature of a dying man on a false practising certificate and, when pressed for evidence of his qualifications by White's, he produced fakes.

Described by one lawyer who worked with him as a “pathological liar”, Doss-Lindsey was only caught out by his ineptitude at the jobs he talked himself into and the investigative skills of his last employer Allison & Humphreys.

They fired him on 8 February 1995 and, just 30 minutes later, began to piece together his deceptions, presenting a five-page report to the Law Society a month later.

The Law Society has so far refused to explain why, in the light of this evidence, it gave Doss-Lindsey, who was struck off the roll last month, a practising certificate on 3 April.

Charles Humphreys, the senior partner at Allisons, is annoyed with the Law Society for giving a conman the keys to the profession, and the recruitment companies for allowing him a foot in the door by not checking his credentials.

But Daniel Lewis, former vice-president of the Institute of Employment Consultants, said recruitment firms cannot be held responsible for the process of checking the background of every lawyer.

“I think to a certain extent we have to trust our candidates,” said Lewis, who works for international legal recruiters Laurence Simons. He said that, in Australia, all CVs have to be accompanied by reams of paper from academic institutions backing up claimed qualifications.

He added that he does not necessarily favour such a system, pointing out that documents can be forged, but he conceded Doss-Lindsey's antics will make the profession more wary in the future.

As well as questioning the actions of others, Allison & Humphreys has already questioned its own procedures for checking job applicants' credentials. Although, like all the firms involved, it is wary of becoming paranoid about a rare incident involving a determined and devious conman.

Humphreys has questioned whether one cheat should mean every applicant who walks through the door gets a lamp shined in their eyes. If that happened, it could raise questions about applicants who exaggerate their achievements on CVs.

But Doss-Lindsey told more than a few little white lies, and his deceit may have an effect in the future when firms believe they have found a employee who seems too good to be true.