Alternative Careers for Lawyers

Serious Fraud Office

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) was created by the Criminal Justice Act 1987, and is an independent government department that detects, investigates and prosecutes serious or complex fraud, under the superintendence of the attorney general. It employs around 60 lawyers. The recession, one suspects, has been good for business.

The work is, of course, fascinating stuff: there is the motivation of the public interest angle, the SFO will only pursue cases of a certain value and dimension, often therefore very high-profile cases, and often at the crest of ever-changing law (e.g. European directives). In these times of globalised financial crime, there is also a strong international / multi-jurisdictional element (the SFO estimates that approximately 65% of cases have an international dimension) where liaising with supranational bodies and authorities in many national jurisdictions is commonplace.

The public interest element comes with the scrutiny and criticism that high-profile public sector work will bring. The 'brand' has historically taken batterings in a similar way to that other prosecution agency, the CPS.

The SFO seems to regularly readjust its focus where incoming directors stamp their own mark, whether taking on a role also as a quasi-regulator or more recently refocusing on the uncompromising prosecutions of 'big fraud', creating new divisions dedicated to fraud, bribery and corruption. The body would also be forgiven for feeling rather paranoid for being under seemingly regular Whitehall review in terms of its remit. In what has been described as a 'Whitehall turf war', there had been proposals to transfer the prosecution aspect to the CPS, and investigation to a new National Crime Agency, but this seems unlikely to happen now. What is more predictable is a budget cut to £30.5m by 2014 (from a peak of £52m in 2008.). Additional funding can be pledged by the Treasury for complex, public interest cases, such as the rigging of the inter-bank lending rates (£3m).

The website (see below) list vacancies and links to the central Civil Service recruitment forum at

Serious Fraud Office (SFO)
Elm House
10-16 Elm Street
Tel:  020 7239 7272