Thursday, June 30, 2011

Corporate compliance work is a hot job market for new attorneys

From The Careerist column at

If you have your heart set on being a corporate lawyer, think compliance.

That's the advice of Constance Melrose, the managing director of eFinancialCareers North America, which just issued a survey of almost 160 financial firms about the number of offers they expect to make to their MBA summer interns.

According to the survey, Wall Street financial institutions are pretty stingy about offers (less than half--49 percent--plan to extend offers to 10 percent or less of their summer hires). But what everyone--including lawyers--should pay attention to is where they expect to hire: operations, debt/fixed income, corporate finance, research, and compliance. "It's the fundamentals--the core stuff," says Melrose.

The message to lawyers is that there's "a tremendous shortage of compliance people," says Melrose. "The traditional path is for law school graduates to work at a regulatory body, like the SEC, where they'd develop skill sets that would translate into the private sector." But now, she says, "even regulators can't find regulators" to keep up with the demand.

The shortage is especially acute in the financial sector. Melrose adds that her company's clients (which include big investment banks, asset managers, and risk managers) are so hungry to hire people with regulatory background that they're interviewing "women who have taken time off, and retired lawyers." 

Her advice to junior lawyers and law students: Get cooking on the regulatory front. Even though many of the proposed rules for the financial market are unsettled, just having an understanding of the regulatory framework and reforms will be a major plus, she says: "If you have legal training, discipline, and analytic skills, you will be valuable."


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