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City firms under pressure to bring in criminal lawyers

Anti-corruption legislation sees law firms recruit criminal lawyers

Article taken verbatim from Legal Week, 30th September 2010

Commercial law firms are facing growing pressure to recruit criminal lawyers with aggressive regulation and anti-corruption legislation on the horizon, according to senior litigators.

Top law firms are showing increasing interest in developing white-collar crime practices against the backdrop of the imminent introduction of the Bribery Act and an increased risk of criminal offences which corporate boards now face.

This was one of the key issues debated at Legal Week’s Commercial Litigation Forum, held in London earlier this month. Panel member and Berwin Leighton Paisner head of corporate and commercial disputes Nathan Willmott (pictured) commented:

“The mindset of commercial litigation practices has changed a great deal and is continuing to change as the prospect of criminal investigations and prosecutions against large corporate clients is now much higher. There is a call from institutional clients to be able to service that need and a desire from commercial litigation departments to do so.

“There is an acknowledge-ment that many corporates might inadvertently commit breaches of the criminal law, given the breadth of many of the newer criminal offences in the fields of competition, financial services, bribery and under the Companies Acts.”

Other members of the panel, which included Clifford Chance partner Luke Tolaini and Crowell & Moring head of international regulatory and corporate crime Gerallt Owen, agreed that there is mounting pressure on City law firms to build up white-collar crime capabilities.

Many commercial firms have been bulking up their criminal capabilities in recent years, with partners Elizabeth Robertson, Louise Delahunty and Jo Rickards moving from white-collar crime specialist Peters & Peters to Addleshaw Goddard, Simmons & Simmons and DLA Piper respectively.

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