Bribery Bill to bolster UK’s law practices

CITY law firms vying for anti-corruption work have started to significantly boost white-collar crime practices in anticipation of the recently passed Bribery Bill, putting them one step behind their US counterparts.

The move by City law firms comes as the Bill, which reached Royal Assent in parliament late last week, is expected to produce swathes of work for lawyers in the coming years as corporations struggle to set in place appropriate anti-bribery procedures.

“Corporates will have to upgrade their procedures to minimise the corruption risk and to demonstrate, if ever asked questions by investigators, that they did their best. The new corporate bribery offence only has one statutory defence; adequate procedures,” said business crime lawyer Louise Delahunty at law firm Simmons & Simmons.

The Bill brings the UK’s anti-corruption laws in line with global policies and moves away from a system that has been called “antique”.

“The Bill generally puts the UK in line with the European Union and the US. Senior management at UK companies will now have to address the real changes to [policies] and this is likely to cause a boom of work for UK lawyers,” said Seth Berman managing director at Stroz Friedberg and former US federal prosecutor.

Berman said the move into white-collar crime for UK based law firms is a new area of business and is likely to become very lucrative.

US firms have also moved to corner the corporate crime market in anticipation of the Bribery Bill through a number of lateral hires and partner transfers to build up London offices.

“The area has been more of a focus for American firms and will be a growth area for UK firms. This will become a lucrative area for [City] firms,” said Crowell & Moring partner Peter Kiernan.

"Historically, American law firms have had white collar crime departments, but UK City law firms now increasingly specialise in this area, to help their clients manage the ever increasing crime liability risk,” Louise Delahunty, Simmons & Simmons."

"US firms have been quicker than the British firms to recognise white-collar crime as a lucrative business. Now all the major UK law firms are developing their experience,” Peter Kiernan, Crowell & Moring."

"This will be a new area for British firms, which have not traditionally had significant practices. This is definitely an area for them to get into,” Seth Berman, Stroz Friedberg."