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Regulatory and compliance is a hot topic, but how have recent changes affected the legal market?
“Compliance and regulation within corporates has increased exponentially in recent years, particularly in sectors such as financial services, and this has driven a rise in demand for lawyers with relevant experience,” says Paul Turner of Garfield Robbins.
“For some time larger firms have been increasing the number of regulatory lawyers they have to cope with the growing burden,” adds Gerry Arbuckle, a senior consultant at Laurence Simons. “This seemed to reach a peak, particularly in associate hiring, before Christmas 2011, although hiring is still steady.”
Away from financial services, increasing regulatory requirements have also had an effect across the business world, notes Paul Knight of DMJ Legal.
“With changes such as the need for businesses providing legal services to appoint a compliance officer for legal practice and the Bribery Act, firms have to ensure they are fully compliant,” he adds.
There are a number of opportunities for lawyers with varying levels of experience in this area, highlights Conor Dilworth, a director at Pro-Legal Recruitment.
“Anything from about two years’ PQE up is popular,” he says. “There are few people with experience in this area so firms are looking for talented lawyers with transferable skills.”
Experience is not necessary in all cases, adds Knight.
“The internal compliance roles we are working on for law firm clients don’t require a huge amount of compliance experience,” he says.
Demand for compliance and regulatory expertise in the in-house sector is also on the rise, comments Rob Baron of Laurence Simons.
“There is an increasing demand, particularly in industries such as oil and gas, and life sciences,” he says. “A number of multinational companies have created compliance departments and although these teams can comprise personnel from a variety of backgrounds, some companies prefer to hire qualified lawyers.”
“Compliance has moved from a back-office function,” notes Dan Safar of DMJ Legal. “In-house, banks and funds have been on a hiring binge. In terms of banks, compliance has grown and they are encouraging lawyers to bring their regulatory expertise forward, although lawyers are reluctant. There is an expectation of a strong regulatory understanding, especially if you work in derivatives or funds.”
For lawyers looking to move into this sector, there are a number of areas to focus on, according to Simon Porter of Taylor Root.
“Lawyers should focus on gaining experience in litigation and regulatory work. Meanwhile, on the in-house front, it is beneficial to gain experience in-house either on secondment or by some other method. In particular, exposure to relevant legislation such as the Bribery Act or working in an FSA-regulated environment will be key.”