Some legal practices have already found that failing to conduct rigorous employee screening can be a costly business. The most high-profile legal sector fraudster in recent times was City lawyer Dennis O’Riordan, whose impressive CV turned out to be a work of fiction.
He claimed to have three Oxford degrees and a Harvard Masters and told his employers he was registered to practice at the Bar in New York and Ireland. The truth was that he only had one degree (from the University of East Anglia) and although he had studied at Oxford University for a Doctorate in Philosophy, he had never actually completed the course. This dishonesty caused massive embarrassment and reputational damage for his employer – and cost him a three-year suspension from the Bar.
Of course it’s not just senior employees who are prone to being less than honest or to committing serious fraud. When legal secretary Leanne Harris became concerned about mounting household bills, she started to write false cheques; over time stealing a total of £500,000 from clients. Her actions caused the family solicitors she worked for to close after 30 years trading, with 36 people made redundant as a result.
These may seem like extreme examples – and of course the majority of staff are honest – but employee fraud is more prevalent than you might think. According to the 2016 PWC Global Economic Crime Survey, 36 per cent of organisations have fallen victim to some kind of economic crime in the last two years. Research suggests that 85 per cent of serious fraud is committed by a company’s own staff – often by long-serving employees the business trusts implicitly.
So what is best practice when it comes to screening employees – and what are the pitfalls you should avoid?