The Director of Public Prosecutions (DDP) Alison Saunders is to stand down in the autumn at the end of her five year term of office, the Government has announced.
Attorney General Jeremy Wright said Ms Saunders would leave in October. The search for a replacement is to begin immediately.
Her tenure in the post has been marked by a series of controversies - most recently over the collapse of a series of rape trials, leading to a review of every rape case in the country.
The Government sought to play down reports that ministers had declined to extent her contract. The press notice announcing her departure pointed out that only one of her predecessors had served for longer than five years.
In a statement Mr Wright said: "I want to thank Alison personally for her service, not only as DPP but as an accomplished CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) prosecutor whose successful record includes the prosecution of Stephen Lawrence's killers.
"I have no doubt that she'll be greatly missed within the organisation."
Ms Saunders, who will join the multinational law firm Linklaters, said it had been a "tremendous privilege" to be the first DPP to be appointed from within the CPS.
"My priority over the next six months is to keep driving improvements in how we work, with a sharp focus on casework quality," she said.
"Key to that will be working alongside the police and other partners to find long-term solutions to the disclosure issues that exist throughout the entire criminal justice system."