Big business turns to lawyers for compliance

Several stories in this column over recent weeks have focused on the aggressive growth strategies of numerous firms in New York. But it’s not just private practice firms that are out in packs hunting for lawyers.

Thanks to the ever-more stringent US regulatory regime, lawyers are increasingly becoming in demand as compliance officers in major corporations.

According to Alisa Levin, one of the principals at Manhattan recruitment consultant Greene Levin Snyder, compliance right now is “white hot”.

“I’ve placed more compliance officers in the last year than in the previous five,” says Levin. “Five years ago we handled the occasional compliance search. Now every fifth in-house position will be a compliance search.”

And as with the rest of the legal market, the salaries are growing to match the visibility.

Levin says senior compliance officers at major corporations or investment banks can command salaries of at least $700,000 (£339,850). One reason for that is the element of personal liability that goes with the territory.

“It’s a very tough job,” adds Levin. “You have a target on your back now because of the increased reporting requirements of US companies and the fact that these positions carry some degree of personal accountability to the compliance officers themselves. It’s scary stuff.”