The National Jurist - Spring 2017 - 8
Compliance careers: J.D.s wanted
By RiChaRD L. heRmann
Compliance officers operate under a relentless barrage of new
laws and regulations. Unlike law, where attorneys are often consulted only after calamity strikes, compliance is about prevention.
Compliance duties can vary by industry. Banks, hospitals and
universities require very different knowledge bases.
Public sector compliance work is the other side of the equation. Government compliance officers write regulations, monitor compliance by regulated entities, and conduct investigations
Almost all of the 316 federal agencies deal with compliance.
Many agency offices have additional compliance responsibilities, supplemented by compliance functions vested in 70-plus
Inspector General (IG) offices.
State and local government compliance parallels the federal
government. Agency compliance is supplemented by more than
1,000 IG offices nationwide.
Self-regulatory organizations (SROs), non-governmental
entities empowered by federal regulatory agencies to create
and enforce industry standards, have wide-ranging compliance
responsibilities. The SROs that hire the most attorneys are the
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Public Company
Accounting Oversight Board and the New York Stock Exchange.
Standard-setting organizations employ attorneys to assist
their members with compliance. There are more than 35,000
U.S. trade and professional associations, many with codes of
conduct to which members must adhere.
Accreditation agencies investigate and approve organizations
within specific industries. For every regulator, there are hundreds, and often thousands, of regulated entities.
Corporate compliance has exploded in this century, prompted by a series of federal laws. Compliance was historically the
responsibility of in-house or outside counsel. While the legal
office still plays a role, compliance is so paramount that it now
often requires a separate office. In large companies, compliance may be further divided by geography, function or product.
The NaTioNal JurisT
ompliance is as old as regulation. Only recently has it
become a hot career for lawyers.
Hammurabi's Code, which dates back to 1754 B.C., established rules for conduct, with most focusing on contracts.
The Babylonians employed what may have been the first
compliance officers to ensure compliance and execution
(sometimes literally) of punishments.
Today's compliance officers still ensure that organizations
observe laws and regulations, but most are focused on prevention. While some work in general compliance,
many specialize in fields such as health care,
finance and athletics.
A barrage of new laws and implementation
of regulations, massive fines and other penalties
have been a compliance wake-up call for companies. Just look at financial services to see the
effect this has had on hiring. HSBC, for example,
hired more than 1,600 compliance officers last
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says compliance is the
fastest growing corporate profession. In six years, the number
of compliance officers in the U.S. has more than doubled to
300,000. Recruitment firm Robert Half International says the
outlook is bright for anyone entering the compliance field.
America's 6,000 publicly traded companies simply can't operate without a compliance staff.
To break into the role, a J.D. is a strong platform. A Fortune
10 corporation recruiter told me she favors attorneys for compliance jobs; prior compliance experience is not always essential.