Norton Rose hikes City crime team with senior Bindmans hire

Norton Rose has recruited its first London criminal law specialist with the hire of longstanding Bindmans partner and crime head Neil O’May.

Sam Eastwood
Sam Eastwood

O’May, who acted for Labour Party fundraiser Lord Levy during the so-called Cash-for-Honours scandal (6 March 2007), is set to join the UK firm’s business ethics and anti-corruption group. The move is the latest example of a major City firm hiking its criminal capability in response to the increased demand for corporate crime expertise during the financial downturn.

The hires sees Norton Rose add O’May to its current team of two UK partners whose practices touch on corporate crime. They are business ethics and anti-corruption chief Sam Eastwood and fellow disputes partner Ruth Cowley, whose return to London from Hong Kong last year boosted the firm’s City practice.

Norton Rose said O’May would build the firm’s criminal and regulatory expertise across its industry sector groups. His practice covers international fraud, bribery and corruption, corporate manslaughter and market abuse.

Eastwood said in a statement: “Neil is an undoubted leader in his field. He has led work with national and international organisations on all types of corporate and white collar crime work, from the intricately complex to the headline-grabbing. It is an area of law which increasingly impacts on all aspects of business, and Neil will build this expertise within the group.”

O’May added in a statement: “It’s no secret that the economic downturn and other current business pressures have put litigation and corporate crime in particular into the spotlight. The development of new offences in corporate manslaughter, bribery and the financial services has seen the regulators using criminal sanctions against corporates and individuals as a powerful weapon of control. It’s a busy area of the law, and one that continues to develop quickly.”

O’May successfully defended a director of spread-betting company Blue Index against insider dealing charges earlier this year (21 June 2012).

Meanwhile, Bindmans has chosen crime partners Martin Rackstraw and Katie Wheatley as new joint heads of criminal law team following O’May’s resignation. O’May, who joined Bindmans in 1990 and has been a partner and head of crime since 1991, is set to leave the firm at the end of September.

Bindmans CEO Andrew Thomson said in a statement: “We would like to express our appreciation for Neil’s outstanding contribution to Bindmans over a period of more than 22 years. We wish him every success in his new role.

“Each of them [Rackstraw and Wheatley] has outstanding qualities which will drive the team forward to new heights. Their outstanding commitment and acute awareness of the political and social climate in which we operate, outstanding dedication to our clients and energy and vision will, I am confident, take us into a new era building on and developing the cutting edge work we do in criminal law.”

DLA Piper also hiked its London criminal team in 2010, hiring Peters & Peters partner Jo Rickards (15 February 2010). Rickards has been acting for former News of the World editor Andy Coulson during the fallout from the phone-hacking scandal (24 July 2012).