LEGAL recruitment agency Reuter Simkin is considering criminal charges against rival agency Daniels Bates Partnership over the alleged theft of confidential client-related information.
Such charges would follow Reuter Simkin's successful civil action last month for the return of documents taken out against an ex-employee and the Daniels Bates agency, which allegedly poached her (The Lawyer 21 March).
Jayne Bowtell, Reuter Simkin director of legal recruitment, says: "It's a very serious situation, and we will take all the action that we need to. It is a theft under the Data Protection Act."
No decision on criminal charges is likely until Daniels Bates has agreed to pay Reuter Simkin's civil legal costs, thought to be around u15,000.
Laurence Smith, chair of the Harrison Willis Group, which owns Daniels Bates, says any criminal charges against the company will fail because it has done nothing wrong. He says the company is now issuing reminders that people should not take information from their previous employers, an action commonplace in the past.
Reuter Simkin is notifying candidates and clients of what has happened. Bowtell is warning them that data relating to them may have been extracted, and apologises "for the potential breach of confidence".
Last month the agency obtained court orders for the return of all documents taken by former employee Geraldine Hetherington.
The six inch-deep wad of documents returned include CVs on 328 lawyers seeking new jobs, including the agency's top banking and corporate specialists in private practice and employment.
The placement value of such candidates averages u6,000-u10,000, but can reach as much as u30,000 for banking specialists, says Reuter Simkin.
Also included was data on 1,525 industry contacts, 146 London industry jobs, and details of an exclusive Fuji Bank assignment to recruit capital markets specialists.