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Attorney Could Be Disbarred for Olympic-Sized Resume Lies

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on January 26, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

An attorney in Michigan is facing disbarment for filling his resume with a series of 'alternative facts' -- including that he competed for the U.S. field hockey team in the 1996 Olympics. Turns out, the lawyer, Ali Zaidi, wasn't on the roster for that or any other Olympic events.

Now Zaidi's gold-medal lie, along with a whole string of additional misrepresentations, has the Michigan Attorney Discipline Board recommending his ouster.

Beyond Your Regular Resume Embellishment

It's not uncommon for job-seekers to polish their resume a bit. But these are usually white lies or exaggerations, like saying you played a pivotal role on a project that you were only partly involved in. But Zaidi's embellishments went a bit further. In his response to the complaint against him, Zaidi admitted that, contrary to previous claims:

  • He was not licensed to practice in Connecticut or Missouri
  • He had not been a summer associate at three different firms, in three different states, all in the same summer
  • He did not have a master's degree from Harvard
  • He had never been a member of the U.S. Field Hockey Squad
  • He had not competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics

That's a bit worse than listing "fine wines" and "international travel" as your interests, when you rarely cross state lines and prefer Trader Joe's $2 table red. (Do people still list their interests on their resume?)

"Outlandish and Extravagant"

Zaidi's misrepresentations "run the gamut from outlandish and extravagant to what might be termed modifications of his record inspired by some actual events," according to the Board's opinion. And "outlandish and extravagant" seems a particularly fitting characterization.

We might add "foolish," since several of the attorney's claims could be contradicted by a simple Google search. Or maybe we're over-estimating hiring committees. According to the Board opinion, Zaidi made it through the hiring process "at some prominent firms."

For his tall tales, disbarment was the appropriate punishment, the Board concluded.

The take away for other attorneys: Keep it honest. Don't claim that you competed in the Olympics -- or even the Goodwill Games.

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