SFO lawyers quit en masse citing red tape

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has suffered a spate of resignations across its legal departments, losing four lawyers during the past three months alone.

A total of eight lawyers, including two senior lawyers, have left this year, which is around 13 per cent of the total number of lawyers across the organisation.

The most recent departure came earlier this month when SFO deputy director Peter Kiernan gave his notice after accepting partnership at Eversheds. Kiernan will join the firm in January after spending 13 years at the SFO.

A number of sources close to the regulator have told The Lawyer that SFO lawyers had become frustrated by dealing with bureaucracy and red tape.

“Working at the SFO was like wading through treacle,” a former SFO lawyer said. “Don’t get me wrong, the SFO does a great deal of good work, but working there was the most frustrating period of my entire career. It just took so long to get anything done.”

An SFO spokesman said staff turnover was within tolerable limits and was not a cause for concern.

He said the SFO had since filled the vacancies, with the new recruits due to start in December and January.

“We face many challenges, but staff turnover is not one of them,” said the spokesman. “We’re able to consistently attract and retain high-calibre professionals, as evidenced by the recent recruitment of five lawyers – a process that also produced a strong reserve list.”