Qualifying in Risk & Compliance: Mohbub Rahman
At AJ Fox Compliance, we work with thousands of candidates and have seen a huge array of different paths into the world of law firm risk and compliance. We are often asked about the different ways to qualify as a solicitor within this space. So, we're speaking with risk and compliance professionals who qualified in various different ways, discussing the pros and cons of the path to qualification they took.
In the first interview of this series, we spoke to Mohbub Rahman, Director of Risk & Compliance at Dechert LLP.
There are so many different paths in to Law Firm Risk & Compliance. What was your path like?
After graduating and completing my LPC, I spent two years at an investment bank. I randomly came across a job role as a Conflicts and AML Analyst at an international law firm which really appealed to me – more so for the fact that I would be working for such a great firm. After a year or two in a conflicts/AML role, I had the opportunity to join the risk and compliance team, which is where I felt more like a trainee as opposed to an analyst. I was fortunate enough to work with some really senior risk lawyers, sitting with them in their offices and working as their ‘trainee’ effectively. I have learnt immensely from them (they know who they are!) and it ultimately provided the foundations for me to become a lawyer.
What do you enjoy about working in Law Firm Risk & Compliance?
What I enjoy the most is being a part of the inner workings of a law firm advising on sensitive issues as well as the sheer diversity of questions and situations that can crop up requiring a solution or a way forward. This function also means really getting to know all the firm’s practice groups, lawyers and professionals and building deep-rooted relationships.
Could you explain your route to qualifying as a solicitor?
I qualified through the SRA equivalent means route – this was by no means an easy feat, especially where I believe I was the first candidate the SRA came across who was not a paralegal but a risk professional. For those who are not familiar, the equivalent means essentially requires you to demonstrate that all the outcomes that a trainee should meet, have been met, with documented evidence of doing so in three distinct areas of law. I already had completed my LPC which allowed me to be eligible to go down this route. Just so you know the whole equivalent means application process took two years beyond the years of experience I was relying on.
Why did you take this path?
It was the most obvious and efficient path for someone in my position to take. Uniquely, my role at the time had allowed me to gain the right level of experience in three distinct areas of law and therefore I did not need to create a ‘seat’ in some other discipline in order to meet this requirement.
What were the benefits and challenges of qualifying in that way?
The benefits, besides being admitted as a solicitor, is that whether unfairly or not, being a solicitor, within a law firm can add credibility – I’m not saying that this should be the case, but at least at the time this is what I could see. The challenge for me was that the equivalent means was untested and in some respects, the SRA were learning through this process. They had never come across someone who was not a paralegal, and I also believe they could not comprehend that a risk professional could be involved in so much. The two-year application process was genuinely stressful and not for the faint-hearted. I trust that others who came after me hopefully had an easier ride.
Would you recommend the path you took? Why, or why not?
This question is now redundant as anyone interested in qualifying will now consider the SQE and QWE which I think makes things easier. If you have the opportunity and have gained the relevant skills then you should absolutely go for it.
Can you explain the reasons behind your decision to qualify? Did you foresee a negative impact on your career if you didn’t?
I always aspired to be a risk lawyer as I saw those who were risk lawyers around me when I was an analyst, and I was fascinated by their analysis and credibility amongst partners and senior lawyers and how they were able to achieve or work towards a resolution on whatever it is that they were working on. So, therefore, yes I did see that to progress further I needed to become a lawyer, and that was my primary focus. However, there are very senior risk and compliance professionals who have achieved very senior roles without being qualified and I think law firms are recognising that risk professionals are professionals in their own right and do not always need to be lawyers. There will always be certain roles and certain types of firms where you will need to be a lawyer to reach the most senior roles – but attitudes are changing.
What is your advice to anyone in the Risk & Compliance space who wants to be qualified?
As with any qualifications, always good to have, especially in a firm where you are surrounded by lawyers, but it is not itself the end goal and without it, it does not mean you will not progress. More so than qualification, focus on what you can achieve in the role that you are in and become an expert and a trusted adviser to those who rely on you.
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