The Law: Crime

Murder trials and high-profile fraud cases are just two examples of the exciting array of work criminal lawyers handle

The Law: CrimeWhats it all about?
Criminal lawyers typically deal with two types of criminal work: general crime and fraud/white-collar crime. Those dealing with the former work in high street firms and act for clients charged with criminal offences, varying from traffic offences through to theft or even murder.

In contrast, criminal lawyers specialising in fraud act for individuals (mostly professionals such as lawyers, accountants or company directors) charged with fraud-related offences. These individuals will initially be facing criminal investigations brought by prosecution agencies such as the Serious Fraud Office. The work can also be of a more regulatory nature in relation to money laundering, insider dealing or market abuse.

The working culture
The working pace of fraud lawyers will depend hugely on their workloads. A case might require them to fly out to different jurisdictions to trace assets or work until 1am. But, this will be occasional. General crime is equally as hands on, with regular visits to police stations, prisons and magistrates courts.

The pros:
Job satisfaction
Varied work and the fact that no two days are identical no routine work

The cons:
Difficult clients
Losing a case and the frustration that follows after having presented a sensible case to one of the prosecuting agencies
Cases can drag on for several years

Why is this interesting?
Both with general crime and fraud law, you will be dealing with crisis situations requiring an immediate response. A lot of drama will be involved, which will make it a lively and exciting environment.

Personal and legal skills required
As a general criminal lawyer you will need to have good people skills, loads of empathy, be quick and have an inquisitive mind. As a fraud lawyer you will need to have excellent analytical skills, be able to assimilate loads of complex information quickly and have bags of common sense. As a lot of work will consist of persuading prosecution agencies not to take matters to trial, strong negotiation and drafting skills are also essential.

Case Study

Three City bankers dubbed The NatWest Three added a UK dimension to the
Enron scandal that rocked the US in 2001.

US federal prosecutors accused David Bermingham, Gary Mulgrew and Giles Darby of seven counts of wire fraud gaining money illegally via international banking systems.

The prosecutors alleged that, in 2000, the men advised NatWest to sell part of an Enron business it owned for less than it was worth. The bankers are accused of having then left NatWest, bought into the company themselves and sold off their stakes for profits of 1.5m each.

The case caught the eye of the UK press when it emerged that the three were to be extradited under an Anglo-American extradition treaty that the UK Parliament had put into law, but that Congress had not even ratified.

Represented by Mark Spragg, a partner at West End firm Jeffrey Green Russell, the men lodged an appeal in the High Court against the decision of the former Home Secretary Charles Clarke to have them extradited, arguing that the case should be heard in the UK.

But in February 2006 Lord Justice Laws and Mr Justice Ouseley rejected the appeal and also dismissed an argument that the Serious Fraud Office should investigate the case. The three were extradited to the US in July 2006.