Why Risk & Compliance is a serious career path

Risk & Compliance as a career path within law firms is still a relatively new thing that hasn't been around for more than perhaps 15 years.

Law students at university may not have heard of it. Even if they've worked at a law firm with a Risk & Compliance department, many are still not aware of what this really involves. It's a new career path that has developed dramatically in recent years, and it's only going one way!

Risk & Compliance has developed into a very substantial, if a little confusing, career path. There's still no standard route to progression as with other areas. The path is not linear and it varies enormously from person to person and from firm to firm. Very few people successfully progress a career within one firm and tend to journey across multiple firms to get the right exposure and not get stuck or pigeonholed. So, while it can be a difficult path to navigate, as firms invest more in it Risk & Compliance is becoming incredibly rewarding.

Long-term potential

Currently, there are many firms that have underinvested in Risk & Compliance and many that don't have Risk & Compliance professionals at all, but should do. Risk & Compliance is something every business needs to consider, so it's not something that's ever going to fall by the wayside.

The regulatory environment is becoming busier and busier, so the work firms need to do to ensure they are compliant and to manage risk is becoming more and more onerous. This is especially difficult for small firms, and subsequently many are being absorbed by larger ABS structured legal servies.

The work is obviously very important for law firms and the larger international firms are investing millions in these teams with 50 to 60 professionals looking after Risk & Compliance. They're not just working reactively either and not just responding to issues as they arise. They're a lot more proactive than that.

Commercial practice

There are also roots to a more commercial practice within Risk & Compliance. Firms are thinking about conflicts of interest in a more proactive manner as they become more global. A firm cannot successfully globalise if it's not thinking about conflicts of interest issues at a high level ahead of time. They may acquire a law firm that will have no value to them given their current client base if they're not doing the right conflicts analysis. But it also gets more strategic than that when thinking about areas and types of work and how that fits into the wider business - it's driving the commercials at the top end for some law firms.

Make an impact

Compared to some other business types, law firms might be considered to be slightly behind in terms of the development of their Risk & Compliance functions. This is not a criticism, it is an opportunity.  We speak to professionals who work in Risk & Compliance in other industries and some of the practices around risk management are much more progressed, for example, in areas such as enterprise risk that are relatively new to law firms and few are investing in it at the moment.

This is an opportunity for people to have a huge impact within law firms, for there to be continued growth within the Risk & Compliance space, value to be added, and infrastructure to be improved.

Respected and rewarded

Though it's not all about money, salaries in this space are really on the up, even for entry-level positions. There are firms that will pay LPC graduates £45,000 plus (a salary comparable to that of a training contract) to get into Risk & Compliance, though these roles can often be fairly narrow that will not offer the best exposure. Most entry-level roles range from £25,000 to £35,000.

Of course, salary levels will vary but the ceiling that applies for other career paths such as the paralegal track do not apply here. Top-end salaries are in excess of half a million pounds and there are professionals who are not qualified lawyers who are earning hundreds of thousands of pounds working in Risk & Compliance in law firms. The progression potential here is fantastic for ambitious, driven individuals.

What is exciting about this career path is that it's in its infancy. The potential remuneration and rewards are enormous and ever-growing, and it's not saturated yet. It's possible the work-life balance may slowly wane as roles grow and become more demanding, though so far this isn't isn't happening too quickly.

Aside from the monetary benefits, there are also other indicators of significant respect and buy-in to these professionals in law firms. There are partnership, directorship, and shareholding opportunities amongst senior Risk & Compliance professionals which is an indicator of the value assigned to these individuals and their roles within the infrastructure of law firms.

If you'd like to discuss your career in Law Firm Risk & Compliance, give us a call on 0207 117 2542, email us at jobs@ajfoxcompliance.com, or message us on LinkedIn.

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Posted by: AJ Fox Compliance