Complying with Compliance

During my last year of law school I interviewed with one of the bulge-bracket investment banks in New York for a position in the regulatory compliance / anti-money laundering department. While I was hoping to get a job with a law firm, I was at least interested enough in exploring other opportunities. At the time, compliance had become an increasingly critical part of internal operations (especially for a financial or banking company), and as such, lawyers were being tapped to fill many of the jobs. Technically, licensed lawyers are not required to do the compliance work, but compliance positions at large companies have come to be known as law-degree preferred jobs instead of a law degree required. Going into the interview I knew I was interested in the company, but I was less interested in the position. Compliance isn’t interesting enough to me; in fact, it’s a bit boring, however necessary it may be to any well-functioning company.

Which is why I find my current position a bit ironic. I left law firm life to be at the New York office of a private equity firm as part of the legal team. When I accepted the offer, I was told that I would spend most of my time on transactional work, with maybe up to thirty percent spent on compliance given the changes the firm is currently going through. As I sit here and do the compliance work (which I am learning as I go), I can tell that I will be slated to be the compliance person for the New York office. The “up to thirty-percent” of my time spent on compliance work that I agreed to will be substantially more and more often, and there may be no end in sight. I am trying to not worry about what may lie ahead.

However, in the end, I like the company and I like the people. And someone has to be involved in the compliance work, understanding it and making sure that the company is legit with the SEC and other regulators. In the meantime, I hope I can actually fit some transactional work in there as well.


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