Real life Suits
A New York lawyer who landed a pupillage at a leading London barristers’ chambers has been disbarred after it emerged she had forged references and qualifications to create an impossibly impressive CV.
The case dates back a few years, but Soma Sengupta’s striking off in the UK has only just been rubber stamped by the Bar Disciplinary Tribunal after proceedings against her in the US were concluded.
The almost unbelievable facts — which recall the story of fake lawyer Mike Ross (pictured) in TV series Suits — were highlighted by Bar Standards Board director of professional conduct Sara Jagger in a statement accompanying news of the decision. She explained:
The lengths that Ms Sengupta went to, to embellish her experience and qualifications are extraordinary. Her elaborate dishonesty is clearly incompatible with membership of the bar.
In 2013, Sengupta was convicted in America of one felony and two misdemeanours, relating to possessing forged documents, filing attorney registration forms with false information alongside an associated conspiracy charge.
According to a report in The Telegraph published at the time of her trial, Sengupta was accused of fabricating sections of her CV, including time she claimed was spent as an assistant district attorney. She denied some of the allegations against her, but via her lawyer conceded that some of the alleged conduct did occur.
Making the switch to the UK, Sengupta was called to the bar of England and Wales in 2008. It was at this point that the BSB says that “false information” helped her to land a pupillage at top criminal and regulatory set One Inner Temple Lane. Reports have stated that a forged birth certificate caught her out, with Sengupta, who is now 55, claiming to be 29 — more than 20 years younger than she was at the time.
It has also been reported, rather worryingly, that Sengupta handled 80 criminal cases over a period of three months while in London, before being exposed. With One Inner Temple — which had failed to verify her prior employment claims — suspending her pupillage, Sengupta returned to the US. In 2009 a BSB investigation was launched, which quickly led to criminal charges being filed in New York.
Following Sengupta’s convictions — and disbarment in New York — the regulator this side of the pond clearly had little choice but to boot her out of the profession. The BSB’s Jagger added:
Ms Sengupta never became a registered barrister in England and Wales because her pupillage was suspended. However, the Tribunal’s decision to order disbarment is right because honesty and integrity of barristers are essential to public confidence in the profession.