The Employed Bar Awards 2020: Patrick Rappo, Outstanding Employed Barrister in a Law Firm

From criminal Bar, to 'big fraud' at the SFO, to international law firm - Patrick Rappo, Partner in DLA Piper UK LLP's Corporate Crime and Regulatory Investigations Group (call 1995) charts his career moves and shares the highlights of working at the employed Bar

Not really knowing what to do at university, I stumbled into law as it was a professional qualification that could lead to a job. Being an argumentative soul, I decided to become a barrister as it promised more independence, courtroom advocacy, and the ability to focus on a career in crime; without having to complete various law firm seats in which I had zero interest!

I worked in chambers at 9 Bedford Row for 13 years as a criminal specialist, which I thoroughly enjoyed. However, working six if not seven days a week and regular cutbacks in the legal aid scheme, and more and more of my work being conducted by the CPS and in-house teams, meant that I started looking at my options. I was involved in a number of serious mortgage fraud cases and one of the largest counterfeiting operations in the UK leading to a new £20 note being created, which piqued my interest in ‘big fraud’. After much soul-searching, I moved to the Serious Fraud Office, as an ‘Investigative Lawyer’ at a time when it was re-styling itself after the highly critical De Grazia report.

Life at the SFO was very exciting, especially as it was undergoing significant transformation. The cases were enormous, involving cutting edge legal points, international cooperation, joint investigation teams, working side by side with investigators, accountants and lawyers, and enforcing new laws such as the Bribery Act and developing the UK’s enforcement policies under these new laws.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there, working with very dedicated, like-minded professionals and being able to get involved in a wide range of disciplines.

Highlights include being promoted to Joint Head of the Bribery and Corruption divisions, managing the UK’s caseload of foreign bribery cases. Another highlight was being involved in creating and drafting the Deferred Prosecution Agreement legislation, in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, and the subsequent Codes of Practice, working with the then Solicitor General, Lord Garnier, and the Attorney General, Dominic Grieve to gain government and parliamentary support for the legislation.

After six years and the legislation finally coming into force, I once again started looking at my options and what new opportunities there may be either in government or in the private sector. After many discussions I was invited to join the London office of an international law firm as a Partner, with a remit to develop their Anti-Corruption practice. Game keeper now turned poacher! This I did for five years, building the team from just one to 10 strong, before being approached by and ultimately joining my current firm, DLA Piper, joining their expanding Corporate Crime and Regulatory Investigations practice.

No one day is the same. I do a mix of criminal law related advisory matters, compliance program design, investigations into red flags and whistleblower complants, and responding to law enforcement enquiries, including the SFO, FCA, DoJ, and World Bank. It’s a broad mix of work, encompassing fraud, money laundering, bribery and corruption and tax evasion, and very international. DLA Piper is one of the largest firms in the world and as such work is regularly referred to me from our UK and international offices as well as from other law firms. We tend to act as trusted advisors to Boards of companies, advising on all their regulatory and reputation management issues. However, I also undertake individual representations.

For the last few years I have been defending in the SFO prosecution of Barclays Bank and four of its senior directors for an alleged fraud on the market during the global financial crisis in 2008; the highest value fraud case brought to trial by the SFO to date. This was a factually and legally complex case: involving applications to the High Court for a voluntary bill of indictment when the bank was dismissed from the case, to an appearance in the Court of Appeal after the first trial, when the SFO successfully appealed the terminatory rulings for the individuals. Eventually, after 7 years’ hard labour, and the end of the second trial, the jury acquitted all the defendants in February 2020.  

Since then, I have been attempting to take a rest but with COVID-19 stopping my long-planned tour of our international offices, I have remained in London and been inundated with work. I am currently working on some interesting mandates, such as advising on potential breaches of the Officials Secrets Act, a judicial review of a search, advising a Hollywood celebrity on a UK criminal investigation and a civil injunction against the press, and running a number of bribery and fraud investigations involving the Middle East and Kazakhstan.

Teamwork is critical to my role, I simply cannot do my work alone and must rely on others, both within the DLA Piper Corporate Crime and Investigations team but also external providers such as specialist barristers, accountants and forensic firms. This means that we need to work hard to foster collaborative team working, with shared values and shared goals. This cooperation and teamwork extends well beyond our Corporate Crime and Investigations team, and the London office. As Co-Chair of DLA Piper’s Global Investigations group we work to collaborate effectively internationally as well.

There are so many rewarding aspects to my job – from the teamwork mentioned earlier, to providing practical and cost-effective solutions to clients, through to victory in the courts or on significant points of law. Its hard to pick one above another.

One of the reasons I joined DLA Piper was its international footprint and the opportunities to work with renowned companies on multiple issues across the globe – all of which have been enormously enjoyable. Another reason for joining DLA Piper was its commitment to pro bono work. As part of this I have helped set up a Welfare Benefits Clinic with LawWorks. This involves written and oral advocacy in Tribunals, appealing government refusals to pay employment support allowances. So far, we have had a 100% success rate, providing very real assistance to extremely vulnerable individuals.

Having offices in China and in Italy meant that we could see the scale of the pandemic and the need to make significant changes early on. As a firm we prepared for this, increasing our VPN capacity, obtaining equipment for staff to take home, and as a result we transitioned seamlessly to home working across all our international offices.

Currently plans are afoot for some staff to return to office working, of which I am one, as I like travelling to and working in London.

However, the productivity of people working from home has been showcased in the last few months. Police interviews using Zoom and or audio facilities are now commonplace, virtual court hearings abound, and even conferences with upwards of 200 people can all take place electronically. I firmly hope that we retain all these methods of working, as it makes work life, especially family life, balance much easier to manage. As a firm we have seen an extraordinary level of interest and participation in virtual conferences and seminars and the sight of lawyers in t-shirts and not in pin stripe suit and ties is refreshing, although maybe not the proliferation of beards…

I have been at the employed Bar for 12 years and have worked to improve its perception and to showcase the opportunities for barristers outside of chambers.

To that end I have been a member of the Employed Bar Committee of the Bar Council, a Chair of the Bar Association of Commerce Finance & Industry (BACFI) and a Bencher at Gray's Inn.

I continue to be impressed with the work that the Bar Council does to unite barristers under the One Bar banner and these awards are a part of that process: they are recognition of the esteem with which the employed Bar is now held. I am deeply honoured to have been nominated, although the award really belongs to the whole DLA Piper team and the counsel who worked on the case with me.

Published on 30 July 2020. Click here to read about all the Bar Council Employed Bar Award Winners 2020.
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