One of the big human interest stories last week was the news that Paul Hastings financial litigation partner Thomas O’Riordan had lied on his CV and had been suspended from practice by the Bar Standards Board. O’Riordan even got the front-page splash in the London Evening Standard, something the Hogan Lovells fraudster Christopher Grierson never managed.
O’Riordan, a barrister by training, had inflated his academic CV at various times to include a first-class degree and DPhil from Balliol College, Oxford, a first-class degree from the University of East Anglia (UEA), a masters from Harvard, and an Eldon Scholarship from Oxford. He also claimed to have attended Radley College and passed the New York and Irish bar exams. These claims were variously entered onto Quadrant Chambers’ and Paul Hastings’ websites. The claims were fake: the truth was a straightforward degree from UEA.
I’m not going to psychologise O’Riordan. I have no idea what his fantasy CV says about his inner being or his need for approval, but it says a lot about the institutions he was trying to impress. O’Riordan’s most recent Radley-Oxford-Harvard schtick was tailored for his application to a barristers’ set he was trying to join. Meanwhile, many US firms with London trainee programmes don’t seem to realise other universities exist. Over the years I’ve seen a series of press releases from US firms banging on about some new partner having a degree from Oxbridge when the undergraduate degree was 20 years ago. You might as well add in their O-level results and a swimming certificate.
Plenty of people have been rightly wondering why Quadrant Chambers or Paul Hastings, O’Riordan’s previous workplaces, didn’t run background checks. The fact is that people believe what they want to believe, whether it’s Perkin Warbeck or Princess Anastasia. O’Riordan’s lies were only discovered when he claimed to have been awarded the Eldon Scholarship the same year as one of the interviewers.
But as the Quadrant chief executive told us last week, the set hired him for his practice, not his paper qualifications. Without this being taken as condoning O’Riordan’s lies, it’s worth noting that he was able to do his job without having been to Oxford or Harvard. Funny, that.