The reasons you're losing your best team members, and how to fix it

As you can imagine, we speak to a lot of candidates. A lot of candidates. All day, every day.

One of the most important things we do to make sure we are doing our job properly, is listen.

We want to understand what drives our candidates, what they hope for the short and long term. We want to understand their concerns, we want to help them gain clarity where things may not be clear,  and we want to help them to fulfil their potential.

Now you might think that because we are a recruitment agency all we want to do is to convince people to move into a new role, but that is far from how we see things, and is a very short term approach.

Whenever we speak to a candidate who has concerns in their role we will always advise them to make sure, as a first port of call, that they are having honest and open discussions with their managers about their hopes and ambitions. In many cases these conversations can empower a manager to give you what you need to improve your situation.

Being in this position means we are front and centre when it comes to understanding why professionals move roles in the world of law firm risk and compliance. If you are a manager in this space then you should really be aware of these key motivators:


By far and above the most common concern people have in their role - that they don’t have enough of it. This usually comes in the guise of a narrowly defined AML or Conflicts Analyst role but the issue persists right up to senior levels and we are also seeing people trapped in engagement letter/OCG focused roles. Some clients we work with have made efforts to amalgamate AML & Conflicts teams which will have a very positive impact on retention, others have tried providing “rotations” which also seems to work well.

Too process driven

Many professionals in the early stages of their career can find themselves in roles undertaking a process that has been defined by others. They are not getting close to the regulations and the legislation that dictates “why” they are doing what they are doing they only know “what” they should be doing. This is disempowering and puts the brakes on learning and development at a very early stage.

Limited autonomy

Similar to work being too process driven, many of the candidates we speak to get frustrated at having limited autonomy. Whether this be due to the way the risk and compliance is structured itself, ro due to wider buy-in levels at the top of the partnership/business meaning that risk and compliance are limited in the change that they can actually effect. After all if you work in risk and compliance you want to impact the way the firm operates, if the buy-in doesn’t exist at the top then you cannot have this impact.


Limited exposure, in terms of types of risk and compliance to be dealt with, can be very career limiting and for those ambitious individuals keen to be constantly challenged can be a real problem. Sometimes internal structures can be to blame, but to some extent in the world of risk and compliance, especially at the most senior level, there can simply be limitations on the scope of exposure in a role due to the profile of the law firm itself, its client profile and the risk appetite of the partners.

This is no-ones fault and short of some sort of significant merger is unlikely to change, but it does mean for many (not all) there simply is a time limit on how long any particular firm can offer a challenge. For this reason we see risk and compliance professionals do move around in a career path more than in some other career paths (e.g. private practice law).

Whilst this is not necessarily something you can avoid as an employer it is good to be alive to this reality and to try to allow opportunities for your risk and compliance professionals to give you transparency around where they feel they are on this journey.

We are often asked to work on urgent recruitment when professionals have moved on for just these reasons but if the outgoing individual had felt free to give their manager a heads up about their likely departure there would have been plenty of time to “pre-search” the candidate pool for potential replacements should the time come.

Many of our top clients are transparent with their risk and compliance professionals where they appreciate that their tenure will be limited due to the innate inability to create infinite challenge and opportunity.

Keeping hold of people until they reach retirement is not a realistic goal - to be a meaningful part of someone’s career journey is fantastic and honest conversations around this can have a very significant impact on how you manage the talent within your team.
Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance