A&O facing SRA probe over Dahdaleh bribery trial

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  • This is an extraordinary series of events which highlights the great danger of commercial litigators or corporate lawyers involving themselves in criminal law, as some kind of quaint diversion from the Chancery Division.

    Given the profitability of criminal and quasi-criminal/regulatory matters in recent years, there has been a real push into this area by the commercial leaders and others. There are also many "life" prosecutors who are turning up at firms, masquerading as defence lawyers, but who have never defended a case in their careers.

    In the end, prudent clients and their advisors should engage the "magic circle" of criminal defence boutiques (Kingsley Napley, Corker Binning, Peters, BCL, Hickman Rose) to assist their commercial clients, which is something that Cameron QC appears to refer to in the above report.

    Commercial firms would never dream of engaging in competition or tax litigation without specialists, but it seems a different approach has been taken by some commercial firms in relation to criminal practice.

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  • I've got some sympathy with anon, if its true other firms don't have the expertise (conversely, my guess is prosecutors would have a pretty good set of relevant skills and some will have started out in defence work). Interestingly enough Mr Dahdaleh having had one bad experience (if indeed he thought it to be so, the chaos may have been useful to him given the way and the reasons why the trial imploded) looked outside the criminal defence boutiques mentioned and plumped again for a big firm.

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  • ...and I thought it was only certain Govt. Depts. who could mess up this badly...

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  • I'm not sure to whom 'Anonymous' at 1.23pm is referring as "...many 'life' prosecutors who are turning up at firms, masquerading as defence lawyers..." but none of the "life prosecutors" I know would get into the tangle which appears to have happened in this instance.
    I can't see the relevance, or do I detect sour grapes from someone who was passed over when a "life prosecutor" has arrived and moved ahead of them. Any prosecutor can be expected to understand bail conditions, even if the implications seem to escape defendants and their legal advisors.

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  • Anonymous@1.23pm has a very valid point, this of course not helped by the likes of Harvey Specter on Suits, TV creates strange types of envy.

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  • Re civil lawyers, corporates and others involving themselves in criminal work without specialist advice - absolutely agree with Anon@1.23pm. Whether or not a meeting goes ahead is ultimately a matter for instructing solicitors. any real and moderately competent criminal specialist (whether he or she has a defence or prosecution background, irrelevant actually) would have picked up the potential issue of breaching bail conditions long before they entered the room.

    Commercial litigator's risk management officers should take note!

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  • In response to Richard Moorhead's comment, I think Neil O'May is a comparatively new recruit at Norton Rose Fulbright and was previously a partner at Bindmans. Accordingly, I would have thought another unfortunate situation like that described in the article above is unlikely.

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  • Anon, you are right about Neil O'May. That's good to know. I can think of others in big firms or outside the boutiques mentioned that have considerable experience as prosecutors/defendants. So I don't think its automatically the case that a BigLaw type firm can't do these cases

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  • Neil O'May joined Norton Rose in at the back end of 2012. He is an exceptionally bright guy and and has proper criminal expertise, which is of course, what A&O were lacking. With regards to @1:23 pm, the boutiques will continue to be eroded by much larger UK firms. Stephen Pollard, ex Kingsley Napley to Wilmer Hale, Stephen Gentle ex Kingsley Napley to Simmons & Simmons, Rod Fletcher, ex RJW to Herbert Smith, O'may, Delahunty ex Peter & Peter to Simmons and now at Sullivan and Cromwell. The list goes on and on. If I were in a boutique criminal firm, i would be wondering what the world is going to look like in a few years and therefore vote with my feet and get out. Boutiques are being squeezed in the criminal space and that aint gonna stop.

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