Job Watch: White-collar crime

You’d have to have spent the past few years in a hole – or sunbathing on the Cayman Islands – to have missed the heightened attention on white collar crime. 

Earlier this summer the Sentencing Council of England and Wales announced new proposals for tougher punishments for white collar criminals, and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) handed down its first prosecution under the new Bribery Act in August 2013.

But where one illicitly gained door closes, another opens, particularly for lawyers able to bridge the criminal/civil divide.

According to Lawrence Evans from JLegal, there’s plenty of work around for “those who are as comfortable applying a freezing order in the High Court as they are sitting with a client in an interview under caution”. 

But a keen knowledge of the new regulatory framework is an absolute must. 

Senior consultant at RedLaw Gerry Arbuckle says: “With the recent Libor and mis-selling scandals still fresh in the public psyche, the SFO and other UK investigatory authorities are coming under pressure to take a tougher stance.”

This is good news for lawyers with the relevant experience. 

“Those lawyers with Bribery Act and Foreign Corrupt Practice Act experience are very appealing,” says James Franklin, manager of private practice recruitment at Robert Walters.

But there is no need to get out the fishing nets just yet – according to Evans there is a lot of work to be had in advising current clients on “potential issues they never knew they had”.

The work isn’t evenly spread though. The US and London are where the real action is, with many US firms continuing to bolt on white collar teams. 

Franklin says: “US law firms and those in the Magic Circle and Silver Circle are driving most activity, with some litigation boutiques also hiring. 

“There are some opportunities in offshore jurisdictions but the majority of roles remain in the top 20 of London law firms,” he adds.

But those seeking a career in sunnier climes could be in luck. There is also a big drive at the moment to recruit those with cross-border experience. 

“Offshore litigation in the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos and British Virgin Islands has also fuelled some of the demand,” says Franklin. 

So if you fancy a little beach-side litigation, it’s time to get packing that suitcase.

Those most in demand are partners known in the market, often hired from niche firms by international practices. 

“International practices, especially those with a strong US presence, will use the existence of a white collar crime “name” as a marketing tool to win new business from existing and potential clients,” says Evans.

But for those unlikely to be poached, two to four years professional qualified experience (PQE) will do well; however, four years plus is generally the most sought after.

White collar crime clearly does pay – for some.