How we can help you progress your Risk & Compliance career

Law firm risk and compliance is a really hard place to navigate, especially if you only have the experience of working in a few law firms to build your picture of this whole space on. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you on your way.

Don’t make generalisations

Most people only have a small amount of data from which they are drawing conclusions about the rest of the law firm risk and compliance world. We have lost track of the number of times that we have heard a candidate make generalisations such as “all US Firms...” or “small teams are always...” or “you have to be a lawyer...”

The truth is that whilst it might arbitrarily make navigating your career path easier if you make all these generalisations you will be missing out on a huge amount of opportunities.

Firms of similar profiles do not have similar risk and compliance teams, it simply isn’t the case. And US firms all approach risk differently. The career path laid out at your firm, or firms you have worked at, is very different at many other firms. If you worked somewhere with a ceiling for non-qualified professionals, that ceiling doesn’t exist elsewhere. If Senior Risk & Compliance Analysts get to resolve high level commercial conflicts directly with senior partners and management at your firm, that is not the case elsewhere. If the pay your friend gets in financial services is better than what you get in your law firm, that doesn’t mean financial services pay better than law firms.

We speak to hundreds of candidates across all sorts of law firms around the UK and overseas and there are so many different approaches to risk and compliance functions. Keep an open mind and it will pay off. 

Do see the value in small pieces of experience

People often underestimate the value of discrete one of projects or pieces of work, but these can be invaluable when interview or drafting your CV. If you have been involved in reviewing a new regulation, or leant an eye to review a new policy being drafted, this is valuable experience.

Don’t think about salary and title as the definition of progression

This can be the single most limiting factor on a career. Without fail the thing that progresses your career the most in the long term is actual experience and technical exposure. Titles are incredibly varied in the law firm risk and compliance world and there is no way to directly compare them. At some firms the role of a Risk Analyst may be much more involved, much higher level, with greater autonomy and responsibility than the role of a “Senior Risk Analyst” at another firm. The Risk Analyst role could easily be paid more also.

The point is that in the earlier stages of your career you are building up the experience and exposure that you will be able to “cash in” later on for salary and seniority. Far too often we see candidates tempted by roles that are paid comparatively highly at a junior level, perhaps with nice shiny titles, but in effect they are very narrow and limiting roles. Sadly many of these candidates simply cannot escape these positions easily. They have too high salary expectations to move on to a firm where they will get broader experience, and even if they are happy to take a pay cut many firms are cautious to hire candidates doing this as they present a potential flight risk.

Do make a long term plan

There are all sorts of directions that you can head in within a career in law firm risk and compliance. You don’t need to know where you will end up but it can be helpful to try to understand the sort of direction you want to head in. Broadly speaking the main  paths professionals tend to take include:

a) towards specialisation in a particular area, in order to become a trusted advisor and subject matter expert for the firm. For example you may be particularly  interested in financial crime and feel you want to immerse yourself in this world at some point during your career, perhaps with the aim of becoming MLRO.
b) Towards wider compliance management. You may want to be responsible for the wider management of compliance across a law firm. You may be keen to build a risk framework, implement new processes and policies, and improve the general culture around compliance at the firm in which you work
c) towards people management. You may want to create an effective and efficient team delivering high level risk and compliance support to the firm- this may find you heading in the direction of a senior manager or Head of Business Acceptance.

If you are beginning to feel that one of these paths speaks to you more than the others it will be important to align your career decisions with the goal you have in mind. 

Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance