White collar crime is a popular practice area choice for aspiring lawyers – whether to qualify into or simply as a training contract seat. This encompasses a range of financial crimes.

What Is White Collar Crime?

White collar crime is a difficult practice area to pin down precisely, since it encompasses such a wide range of different activities.

Primarily, you’re looking at financial-related crimes such as fraud, money laundering, bribery, sanction breaches and more.

The work involved varies quite widely based on the type of firm involved. At a smaller scale (perhaps within the context of a high street law firm), this could involve fraudulent activity that has been suspected within a local business employing a handful of people. At a Magic Circle or elite US firm in the City, you could be dealing with a matter that encompasses billions of pounds across a multinational organisation. 

Firms Involved In White Collar Crime

White collar crime is a practice area that exists within a number of different law firms. Many of your local high street law firms will deal with matters of fraud on a local level (e.g. small businesses). In the City, there is a highly developed (and highly competitive) market for investigating serious financial crime at the top level. Some of the best ranked firms (according to Chambers rankings) in this area include:

  • Debevoise & Plimpton (Band 1): An elite firm originating from New York and developing a strong presence in London, Debevoise has become infamous for its corporate crime teams on both sides of the Atlantic – led by top practitioners such as Karolos Seeger.
  • Slaughter and May (Band 1): This well-respected Magic Circle powerhouse might be best known for huge M&A deals with FTSE100 clients, but it’s also developed quite the reputation for white collar crime under leading lawyers such as Jonathan Cotton.
  • Herbert Smith Freehills (Band 1): A Silver Circle firm known for interesting practice areas such as Real Estate, HSF have a highly developed white collar crime team and a wide range of clients.

Legal Tasks For White Collar Crime Lawyers

There are a number of tasks involved in white collar crime as a practice area. These do, of course, vary widely depending on your level of seniority and the type of firm. Smaller firms will typically see younger lawyers take on more responsibility sooner, whereas more developed City firms will maintain larger teams (ironically, elite US firms revert back to much leaner teams). 

More senior lawyers, in particular, will naturally spend a lot of their time networking and developing relationships with clients. All lawyers across this practice area can expect to get involved in the following kind of tasks, however:

  • Reviewing documents is a big part of the job – scanning large quantities of emails, letters, etc. in order to collective evidence
  • Forming arguments is another essential part of the work – once evidence has been gathered, more senior lawyers will often take the lead on working out the best position for the team to attack a case from
  • Conducting interviews is a very important part of this practice area (and one of the more unique tasks to this type of work compared to most general corporate work)

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White Collar Crime Lawyer Salaries

The salaries commanded by solicitors in this practice area vary widely based on the type of firm. At NQ level (newly qualified associates), salaries can range from £30-40k at the upper end of high street law to regional law firms, all the way up to £100k at a Silver Circle firm, £125k at a Magic Circle firm, or even £160k at an elite US firm. These numbers are only rough ballpark figures, and are changing all the time (especially recently, in light of the ongoing ‘pay war’ between top City firms).

It should also be noted that most firms operate on a relatively rigid lockstep model where all trainees/associates are paid the same regardless of their practice area. 

At partner level, on the other hand, individuals are compensated more for the profits of the work they can personally bring into their practice area, and so salaries start to vary more widely. White collar crime is certainly a well-paid area of practice for senior lawyers, with its leading figures reportedly commanding seven-figure sums at the elite level.

Barristers operating in this area are extremely well paid. Leading chambers such as QEB Hollis Whiteman have specialisms in this area, and employ top barristers such as Selva Ramasamy KC. Comfortable six-figure salaries are common in this kind of work at the top level.

Skillsets For White Collar Crime Lawyers

As you’ll likely have gauged from the list above, lawyers in the practice area of white collar crime need a range of different skills at their disposal. Some are generally applicable to all lawyers, such as intelligence and a hardworking attitude. However, there are a few points that are particularly relevant to this specific practice area:

  • Attention to detail: in order to pick out key facts from large document review processes, you need to have a sharp eye and stay extremely detail-orientated
  • Adaptability: these cases can go in a number of directions, and you need to be able to adapt to the circumstances of the matter at hand as they develop
  • Interpersonal skills: lawyers in white collar crime are often dealing with matters involving real people, which means a need to question their motivations and actions in a detective-like manner

At a smaller firm, you’re likely to take on a kind of arbitration role too, which requires many of the same skills as a barrister (this is a popular practice area of choice for solicitors who have maintained an interest in barrister-style criminal work). At a larger firm, external help in the form of a qualified barrister is likely to be called in.

Intersections With Other Practice Areas

White collar crime is a highly disciplinary area of legal practice, with a great deal of overlap to other practice areas. At a larger law firm (e.g. Silver Circle, Magic Circle, elite US, etc.), this will often mean collaborating with other teams within the same firm (a process known as cross-selling in terms of the firm’s business goals), but at a smaller firm this might involve collaborating with other firms or organisations who have specialisms in that area that can’t be sourced in-house. 

Here are a few examples of how your work as a white collar crime lawyer could overlap with other practice areas:

  • Working on a tax evasion case? While you’ll be leading the litigation, you’ll likely also need to call on specialised tax lawyers to give their input on the law in this area
  • Working on a public corruption case? Getting lawyers from the public law practice area involved will be crucial
  • Working on a suspected fraud related to property? Your real estate team will be invaluable for their advice

Further Reading

The most important thing to follow if you’re interested in white collar crime is current affairs. Reading the Financial Times and The Economist, for example, can be invaluable for tracking the recent trends (as well as developing your commercial awareness more broadly). Important current trends include an emphasis on benchmark riggings, violations of sanctions related to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, and large-scale government and corporate corruption issues in Latin America. 

You can also develop a broader knowledge of the key concepts in this practice area by reading well-known books such as Jennifer Taub’s Big Dirty Money, or Oliver Bullough’s Moneyland. If you’re looking for an easier, more relaxed way in, consider popular documentaries like Dirty Money (currently on Netflix).


In short, white collar crime is certainly a practice area worth considering for aspiring lawyers. It requires specialised skills like close attention-to-detail, gets you closer to the barrister-style criminal work than most other corporate work would, commands high salaries, and involves a wide range of tasks across a wide range of firms.


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