We all want to put ourselves in the best light when crafting a job application – but for one hopeful legal professional, this involved going beyond a little embellishment.
The resume of a law graduate from the University of New South Wales boasted impressive results: a distinction average in sixteen law subjects and extensive experience. The graduate sent the resume to top-tier law firms. He used the fake CV to score highly competitive legal jobs: first as a paralegal then as a lawyer.
But the problem was – the graduate’s real results were a little less spectacular than he made out. In reality, he achieved distinctions in only a few subjects and had even failed a subject. He also had a lot less experience than his CV suggested.
But the whole thing began to fall apart after law firm Allens Linklaters noticed a discrepancy between two different applications he had submitted, one for a summer clerk programme in 2010/2011, and another application he made in 2015.
The firm notified the Legal Services Commissioner, who asked the graduate to explain the discrepancies. Through his legal representatives, the young man admitted to his fraudulent conduct.
He then apologised to his boss, and was given the option of resigning or being terminated. He chose to resign.
He then apologised to another firm to which he had previously sent a false CV.
The case ended up before the Civil and Administrative Tribunal which was tasked with determining whether the graduate should be allowed to continue practising.
He told the Tribunal he had “always dreamed of becoming a successful corporate lawyer.” His father had high expectations, and the graduate didn’t want to disappoint him. Previous attempts to get a job using his real transcript had proven unsuccessful.
The young man stated at the time that he made the false CV and transcript that his judgment was “clouded by my emotion.”
Character references provided to the Tribunal demonstrated the graduate was held in high regard by his employers, even after he disclosed the fraud to them. He was extensively cross-examined, and unfortunately for him, the answers he gave “reveal[ed] a disquieting trend on the part of… [the graduate] to deceive, and to embellish events so as to portray a false picture”.
The Tribunal found that:
“the conduct of… [the graduate] was disgraceful and dishonourable. It was contrived specifically for the purpose of obtaining a self-advantage. His conduct achieved that purpose since he obtained positions both as a paralegal at Allen & Overy and at Gilbert + Tobin and also as a solicitor in the employ of Corrs Chambers Westgarth.
Had the true facts been known it is most unlikely that such firms would have offered employment to [the graduate]. The manner in which the deception was carried out is also troubling. It is not only the alteration of marks in the academic transcript: that deception was supported by another deception namely the CV which blatantly described himself as having completed degree with distinction when in fact this is not correct.
Other than the desire to progress, and perceived family pressure, there is no explanation or excuse for [the graduate’s] conduct… His conduct was motivated solely for self-advantage.”
The Tribunal concluded that his actions amounted to professional misconduct.
On the other side of the coin, the Tribunal accepted as a mitigating factor that he was relatively young and immature at the time of his offence – 22 years old with no experience in the legal profession.
He was ultimately disqualified from holding a practising certificate for two years – starting on 22 February 2016 until 22 February 2018.
After 22 February 2018, he will be allowed to apply for a new practising certificate – but will be on a restricted practising certificate for three years, instead of the usual two.
While the young graduate was lucky not to be ‘struck off’ forever, others have not been so fortunate.
So the moral of the story is – like in most areas of life, honesty is the best policy when applying for a job.