Alison Saunders is to become a partner at Linklaters, following five years as the UK’s director of public prosecutions (DPP).

Saunders was the first internal candidate to lead the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), taking over from Keir Starmer in November 2013.

She is expected to join Linklaters shortly after the end of her term as DPP, which concludes in October 2018.

On stepping down, Saunders will join the magic circle firms’s business crime team, within the dispute resolution practice.

Linklaters’ disputes head Michael Bennett said: “Alison’s credentials speak for themselves, and she will be a fantastic asset to the team, and to our clients.

“She has a wealth of prosecution experience and is accustomed to dealing with regulators and counterparts at the highest level globally. She is an excellent fit for Linklaters’ DR ambitions”.

Saunders has been with the CPS since 1986, the year in which the organisation was formed. She became assistant chief crown prosecutor in 1999 and left the organisation in 2003 to serve as deputy legal adviser to the Attorney General.

On her return to the CPS, Saunders established its organised crime division in 2005. She became chief crown prosecutor for CPS London four years later, ahead of her appointment as DPP near the end of 2013.

The CPS has been dogged by criticism for its handling of rape and sexual assault cases during Saunders’ tenure.

Responding to pressure, the CPS announced earlier this year that it was to assess all live rape and serious sexual assault cases to check whether disclosure obligations have been met.

The CPS was accused of a series of disclosure failings in rape trials, leading Saunders to say: “The CPS and police have a vital role in ensuring there is a fair trial process in place to protect the public. Proper disclosure is a fundamental part of this.

“The steps we have already taken, along with the measures we have announced [today], are aimed at tackling the deep-rooted and systemic disclosure issues which are of great concern to us all.”

Despite recent criticism, Saunders – a former barrister – has overseen a number of momentous cases, including the conviction against Roy Whiting for the murder of Sarah Payne as chief crown prosecutor for Sussex in 2001, and the conviction of the killers of Stephen Lawrence, when she took up the post of DPP in London.

Come October, the CPS will look to recruit a new head to revivify its repute.