Celebrating 10 years! 2007-2017

Debating to go into Compliance.... Thoughts?

I graduated unemployed from GW law recently with slightly ab lawisrough01/11/18
What’s jobs are you applying for? I’ve never seen any en notreallyalawyer01/11/18
notreallyalawyer, compliance jobs are listed all the time al thirdtierlaw01/12/18
don't feed the troll blackholelaw01/12/18
I work in compliance. I very much enjoy my job. I make a gre siezetheday01/11/18
Hey Sieze. Could you shoot me an email at [email protected] synergy01/17/18
Hi, what's your email address? cipnj71801/31/18
If u work in a compliance dept at a big bank u will most lik fompliance201/12/18
"Also, I've had family members/friends telling me I should a nighthawk01/12/18
Where do you find these compliance entry level jobs? I’d d notreallyalawyer01/12/18
You should feel fortunate that it looks like you have reason 6figuremistake01/12/18
How many attorneys at a firm would you consider small law vs junkwired01/12/18
I'm not an expert, and I don't know if there's a precise num 6figuremistake01/12/18
What do you want to do? If you could pick a field or special therover01/12/18
At this point, what's the alternative? If you're working anothernjlawyer01/12/18
To paraphrase Paul Campos (you should read his e-book) and a wolfman01/12/18
> Oh, and unless your family members are currently practicin frankythefly02/03/18
Compliance jobs are hard to get. If you can get one, I'd ta patenttrollnj01/12/18
Have you done any ACTUAL work as an attorney for a small law thirdtierlaw01/12/18
I left insurance defense for healthcare risk management four mrtor01/12/18
Compliance is solid and has worked for me. Having said that canon8301/13/18
Thank you for the helpful replies. Canon68, May I ask why yo lawisrough01/18/18
Because your assessment of whether the job is related to the canon8301/18/18
I worked in compliance for 3 years before moving to my curre kemken01/16/18
Just an update: My first compliance interview didn't work ou lawisrough02/08/18
I never practiced and went into the non-legal, corporate wor 6figuremistake02/08/18
I presume compliance with an investment bank. You express in nighthawk02/08/18
His best route is being placed through an agency as a contra khazaddum02/11/18
Excellent thread. 6figure I agree 100 percent with ur 2 p fompliance203/14/18
Think about this: 75% of lawyers are in private practice and onehell03/14/18

lawisrough (Jan 11, 2018 - 9:17 pm)

I graduated unemployed from GW law recently with slightly above median grades. In the last week I've been able to score some interviews for compliance positions at fairly large banks/investment companies, which I have kind of been on the fence about.

I've never worked a compliance position and the job descriptions do not seem to be related to the law much at all. For example, reviewing emails for ethic violations, reviewing company policies/procedures, assist with regulatory filings, etc.

The idea of going through the stress of law school but never actually practicing the law is bugging me a bit emotionally. Also, I've had family members/friends telling me I should avoid compliance jobs because the long term career trajectory is better for an actual lawyer.

What do you guys think? Does anyone enjoy compliance? What is it like day to day? Are there any decent long term prospects doing this type of work? Is it ever possible to transition back into being an actual attorney from compliance?

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notreallyalawyer (Jan 11, 2018 - 9:38 pm)

What’s jobs are you applying for? I’ve never seen any entry level ones. Sorry can’t answer your question as all I’ve done is doc review.

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 12, 2018 - 1:23 pm)

notreallyalawyer, compliance jobs are listed all the time all over the country. You get them by just applying. You can find them on monster, indeed, etc. Just because they say they want a year or two of experience, does not mean that they won't hire someone with no experience but transferable skills. It is no different than legal jobs that want "1-3 years of experience dealing with...," those are all entry level jobs and they'll hire someone that doesn't actually have 1-3 years of experience.

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blackholelaw (Jan 12, 2018 - 2:27 pm)

don't feed the troll

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siezetheday (Jan 11, 2018 - 10:25 pm)

I work in compliance. I very much enjoy my job. I make a great living and have a good work life balance. If you want to chat about it let me know. Give me a throw away email and I’ll reach out.

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synergy (Jan 17, 2018 - 3:46 pm)

Hey Sieze. Could you shoot me an email at [email protected]? We've spoken in the past and your advice was tremendously helpful for me before entering the industry. I've since been working in compliance for 4 years now and would love to ask a few questions.

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cipnj718 (Jan 31, 2018 - 3:30 pm)

Hi, what's your email address?

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fompliance2 (Jan 12, 2018 - 7:10 am)

If u work in a compliance dept at a big bank u will most likely never practice for a number of reasons ... maybe solo work

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nighthawk (Jan 12, 2018 - 8:09 am)

"Also, I've had family members/friends telling me I should avoid compliance jobs because the long term career trajectory is better for an actual lawyer."

The long term trajectory of a Work Comp/Family/PI/LT/Immigration lawyer is better than a compliance gig at a large bank? Not really.

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notreallyalawyer (Jan 12, 2018 - 8:20 am)

Where do you find these compliance entry level jobs? I’d do it it they’d take me

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6figuremistake (Jan 12, 2018 - 8:25 am)

You should feel fortunate that it looks like you have reasonable employment prospects despite graduating unemployed. Back when I graduated in '09, if you didn't have connections or a job from OCI, you were in for a rough ride. Compliance departments definitely weren't hiring middle of the pack law grads right out of school - at least not in any significant numbers.

What you should do is make an honest assessment of where your peers with comparable grades are finding work. At schools like GW, I assume being outside of the top 25% means you're out of luck for BigLaw or BigFed.

Maybe there are some midlaw or state attorney options, but chances are you're looking at small law if you just want to practice because you feel compelled to. Keep in mind that many posters here who are in small law often inquire about how to transition into compliance. Outside of the upper echelon of law, the legal sector isn't like the normal corporate environment, which usually operates on a standardized work schedule and offers fairly comprehensive benefits and annual raises.

Yes, some entrepreneurial lawyers can work there way up from a low starting position, but for most people just looking for a normal career and paycheck, if you missed the OCI boat, the dream of a normal legal career is over. If you can find a solid non-legal or quasi-legal career, you should probably just pursue that. There are much worse fates than pursuing a stable job with a big bank.

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junkwired (Jan 12, 2018 - 9:07 am)

How many attorneys at a firm would you consider small law vs mid law?

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6figuremistake (Jan 12, 2018 - 11:00 am)

I'm not an expert, and I don't know if there's a precise number or even range. I think it has more to due to with the quality of the firm than the actual size. Essentially, midlaw is something akin to BigLaw jr. - the salaries are lower, but it's still an established office where you get benefits and gain experience that may let you move in-house or to another respectable role. In my mind, small law is your typical small operation in a strip mall or something, which focuses on PI, family law, worker comp, etc.

Obviously, there are gradations and hybrids, but I don't think working for a "mom n' pop" style business is what most attorneys had in mind when they enrolled in law school. If there's a quasi/non legal role available at a normal corporation, I say take it - unless you're more of the entrepreneurial type.

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therover (Jan 12, 2018 - 9:58 am)

What do you want to do? If you could pick a field or specialty what would it be?

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anothernjlawyer (Jan 12, 2018 - 11:01 am)

At this point, what's the alternative?

If you're working at a "large bank / investment company", you are going to have some things, like paid time off, health insurance, the ability to take FMLA leave, and a 401(k), that you will almost certainly not have in sh!tlaw, and may not have in "midlaw".

You don't "work your way up" from pounding the sh!tlaw pavement in traffic court to representing Apple in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A very small number of sh!tlawyers who have excellent business / entrepreneurial skills make a good living (still in sh!tlaw) and the rest struggle.

If you get a compliance offer, take it. The worst that happens is that you have big-corporation experience on your resume as you continue to look for the perfect legal job. The best is that you work your way up and leverage your law degree into a better position within a big company.

Good luck.

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wolfman (Jan 12, 2018 - 12:00 pm)

To paraphrase Paul Campos (you should read his e-book) and a bunch of others, law today is a tournament guild and legal education is a tournament. The prize is a shot at doing the kind of law you read about and think most lawyers do when you are a 0L, unless you know better. Mind you, it's only a shot, and plenty people wash out of biglaw, etc.

But that's not your problem. Not to sound harsh, but they held the tournament and you lost. Graduating from GW without a job means you were carried off the field insensible and bleeding. Doesn't mean you are dumb, or weak, you just lost the tournament (which a lot of people will tell you was heavily rigged, but that's another topic).

Unless you are literally obsessed with being a lawyer and know nothing else will make you happy (that is a delusion 90% of the time), take the compliance gig and be glad you have it. If you DEFINITELY decide you want to do criminal/divorce/car wrecks for a living, you can leave compliance and do that (btw, you should pass the bar and get admitted NOW, not later, if at all possible).

The other "better" kinds of law are pretty much closed to you now, barring a true miracle - see my first point re tournament. Sorry. And a miracle is most likely to happen by going compliance to in house although that is very rare.

Take the job. Don't be unemployed.

Oh, and unless your family members are currently practicing lawyers with a somewhat similar history, their opinions, however well-intentioned and sincere, are worth NOTHING. They are not stupid - law just doesn't work like other fields. At all.

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frankythefly (Feb 3, 2018 - 2:14 pm)

> Oh, and unless your family members are currently practicing lawyers with a somewhat similar history, their opinions, however well-intentioned and sincere, are worth NOTHING. They are not stupid - law just doesn't work like other fields. At all.

I've found that almost all non-lawyers have zero, zero conception of just how over-saturated the legal field is and how horrible the job market is for inexperienced JDs. The notion that someone with years of education could suffer employment problems is completely inconceivable to most people.

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patenttrollnj (Jan 12, 2018 - 12:59 pm)

Compliance jobs are hard to get. If you can get one, I'd take it.

Also, read wolfman's comments above !

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thirdtierlaw (Jan 12, 2018 - 1:20 pm)

Have you done any ACTUAL work as an attorney for a small law firm? Overall I like my job as a family and criminal defense attorney, and I'm making a very decent wage for my area, however, it is not for everyone. THere are days that I'm ready to walk away and go sell hot dogs, it can be extremely stressful, you constantly feel like you need to be hustling, and the clients can be plain terrible.

Your family is only correct for a very small percentage of attorneys. If you were a big law associate and you end up on the partnership track, your outcome is likely better than moving up the compliance chain. However, most people don't make it past years 3-5 in biglaw. They get shown the door. Many end up working in small law for 30% of their biglaw salary. Or they end up leaving law altogether. Compliance can be a good career. Though you shouldn't count on it, it is also not unheard of for a compliance person to lateral into a general counsel department. Either in the company they started with or after lateraling to a new smaller company. Many midsized companies have the legal and compliance department under the same umbrella.

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mrtor (Jan 12, 2018 - 2:36 pm)

I left insurance defense for healthcare risk management four months ago. I have no second thoughts, no regrets, and do not plan to go back at this point. Life outside of law is incredible. I work 7-8 hours per day -- I'm also usually one of the last ones to leave at 4:30ish. Work ebbs and flows. When its slow, I kill time. There's no pressure to bill or maximize efficiency. Instead of being a small fish in a big pond, I'm now a big fish in a small pond. I used to feel like an idiot any time I misunderstood something or made a small mistake in law. Here, I'm far more educated than most of my colleagues. I'm also allowed to be human and make a mistake every now and then without someone rubbing it in.

Overall, I'm committed here for at least 10 years to get my loans wiped (hospital is a non-profit, hence PSLF). There's a director and VP position above me which could offer advancement opportunities. There are also a decent number of risk positions nationwide (as opposed to state boundaries in law) for which there is a very small pool of qualified talent (as opposed to the masses of lawyers). Some of these positions are very lucrative too. I am making about 10% more than my buddy at the second largest law firm in town for a lot less work.

I know some attorneys in our compliance division who have it just as good.

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canon83 (Jan 13, 2018 - 8:56 pm)

Compliance is solid and has worked for me. Having said that, I would not take the position you described above unless it is a smaller bank and/or you intend to stay in Compliance for at least 5 years.

If you take it, don’t feel discouraged if the work sucks. Learn as much as possible, try to wet your feet in other compliance functions within the firm and look to move after 1 year. It will help if you can build great relationships with your supervisor/manager so he or she can confirm your embellished compliance experience.

If you have the right type and right amount of compliance experience, you can actually move into mid-law/big-law depending on your expertise. It is not uncommon to also move into an in-house GC role at a smaller bank or broker-dealer.

Whatever you do, don’t half ass it and try to excel.

Good Luck.

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lawisrough (Jan 18, 2018 - 2:25 pm)

Thank you for the helpful replies. Canon68, May I ask why you wouldn't take the type of position described above?

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canon83 (Jan 18, 2018 - 4:19 pm)

Because your assessment of whether the job is related to the law is correct.

Within investment bank/broker dealer (sell side) compliance, there is a hierarchy. It depends on the bank but most large banks use the same hierarchy. You have front office advisory compliance (sit on trading floor and advise sales and trading staff in real time), testing and monitoring (check if the firm’s checks and controls for compliance purposes are effective), FINRA License Registration/Ethical Violations, Regulatory Inquiries/Filings, Trade Surveillance, Policies and Procedures (not only review but draft with the help of Legal and/or Outside Counsel), Generalist.

I’ll leave it open to others to agree/disagree/comment but I think the above roles are what you typically see within a compliance department for a fairly big bank. I think advisory, P&P and Testing/Monitoring are closest to the law (regulatory law).

A lot of the P&P guys I know are lawyers and do some critical work for their firms. You can learn a lot.

Front Office Advisory will be hard to get because you need a lot of experience – whether it is actual legal or compliance.

Testing/Monitoring might not be bad because you will have to understand various rules and regulations covering various businesses and then understand what checks and controls the firm has put in place in order to stay in compliance.

I would stay away from the others.

If you were at a smaller bank, I’d take the position because you can probably be a generalist and do a little bit of everything.

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kemken (Jan 16, 2018 - 10:31 am)

I worked in compliance for 3 years before moving to my current in-house position. I think it could be a great way to transition to an in-house role and the salary isn't bad. So to answer your question: yes, i moved to law from a compliance position.

I'm not sure if my experience is typical or not. But I think you should take this position and, in a year or two, network your way to a in-house or firm position. Or perhaps even transition in the same location.

If you have any specific questions about my experience, feel free to ask.

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lawisrough (Feb 8, 2018 - 1:41 pm)

Just an update: My first compliance interview didn't work out, but I have a second one scheduled next week.

Does anyone have any advice on the "why compliance" question?

I find it really hard to explain in interviews why I am applying to compliance jobs rather than legal work.

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6figuremistake (Feb 8, 2018 - 2:08 pm)

I never practiced and went into the non-legal, corporate world. The jobs I've held since law school have pretty much nothing to do with law. At least with compliance, there is some connection between the two.

Anyway, when applying for a non-legal position, I've found that you have to avoid two impressions: 1) You'd like to be a lawyer but you can't find real legal work or 2) You had no real plan when you went to law school and you still don't have any direction in life.

With issue one, you're either treating this job as a backup option and nobody wants to hire a guy who sees the job as a backup or you're a loser who couldn't hack it in his original field and nobody wants to hire a loser. With issue two, you're seen as a flake who bounces from fleeting fancy to fleeting fancy. You're a flight risk and nobody wants to hire a directionless flake.

The only way to get around this is to "own" your law school experience and indicate that you chose that path because you thought it would open others doors. For example, "I went to law school with a desire to return to the corporate world with stronger critical thinking, writing, and presentation skills. A law degree is a very versatile degree."

Sure, some employers will consider such a response to be as flimsy as the K&G suit I was wearing to interviews, but others will accept it, and it's pretty much the only way to deal with the earlier issues.

For you, it's not as hard because compliance is related to the law. I would probably emphasize how your legal education contributes to your ability to understand compliance issue and your desire to work on this side of things in the corporate world.

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nighthawk (Feb 8, 2018 - 2:53 pm)

I presume compliance with an investment bank. You express interest in banking and also in law how the two merge together at compliance. Show understanding of how compliance works and how your law school training enhances your candidacy. If you express strong interest in the banking field, people will not question your law degree.

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khazaddum (Feb 11, 2018 - 9:55 pm)

His best route is being placed through an agency as a contractor in AML, BSA, or DF.

Wells Fargo bank recently entered a CO with the Fed Reserve that will require substantial compliance benchmarks in consumer finance.

Look for keywords on Indeed that combine compliance with CFPB, OCC, and statutes like TILA, FLA, GLBA, and so on.

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fompliance2 (Mar 14, 2018 - 8:25 am)

Excellent thread.

6figure I agree 100 percent with ur 2 points. Only thing I would say is rather than own it is spin it however best fits the role you're applying

Canon has some great insight in typical large bank in NY, I would probably disagree a bit, MO is subjective though I'm in aml , but r the heirarchy changes quite a bit depending on what sort of regulatory pressure you are currently in, I was at BD/RIA who gave no shyts about Aml until finra came in and started asking about LPS then I became the man,but generally FO desk advisory is top but deal with real time traders is tough

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onehell (Mar 14, 2018 - 1:46 pm)

Think about this: 75% of lawyers are in private practice and of that 75%, about 70% are in practices of 10 lawyers or less, almost half being solos:

https://abovethelaw.com/2015/05/stop-saying-lawyers-need-to-become-entrepreneurs/

The relevance to this topic is that outside of biglaw, being in private practice usually means owning or working for a small business. Compliance jobs, OTOH, are almost always at large companies. Large companies have better benefits, better predictability, better upward mobility, basically better everything. And unless you're in sales, you're not expected to sell. And you've got a brand-name resume. You work somewhere people will actually have heard of, and there's a lot of value in that.

In general in the private sector (not just in law but in everything), the bigger the company the better the job. Unless you have a burning entrepreneurial spirit or succeeded in your one chance to get biglaw (which you obviously didn't) you're better off in compliance. Go into private practice without biglaw on your resume, and you're more likely than not going to end up doing divorces and/or criminal defense, either working for yourself or at some place with 10 attorneys or less. No business of that size has enough of a group to offer decent health insurance. As to your family's predictions about long-term potential? Not really. The only upward mobility that exists is that you can, with experience and salesmanship, eventually get more and better-paying clients, get a bigger cut by making partner or going out on your own, etc.

That could mean more money than compliance if you crush it. But if you're not a natural-born gift-of-gab salesman AND a good attorney that's unlikely and even if it does happen, it will still be the same kinds of cases. It's a pie eating contest where the prize is more pie. Move up in a giant corporation, OTOH, and moving up doesn't just mean more money. It means different jobs with the potential for more sophisticated and more interesting work.

Don't get me wrong. Some people love having the control of working for themselves. If you're good at and have a lot of clients, then you've spread the risk around such that getting fired by a client is NBD. And if you don't have any appointments and would rather work on that motion at night or whatever, or on your laptop from the beach, you can go ahead. You own the place (or are one of its owners if you make partner at some small firm). But for me, there's still the fundamental fact that what you actually work on is going to be largely the same stuff, moving up just means more files, higher fees, and you keeping a bigger cut of those fees. Or you're the rainmaker who just brings in the cases and lets associates do most of the work. All great things, but the fundamental truth that you're working on basically the same kinds of stuff, over and over again, remains.

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