Lawyers working in the world of regulatory and compliance are looking at an increasingly complicated sector, particularly when it comes to financial services.
This sector has taken a good old bruising in the past few years and recently underwent a dramatic overhaul when the Financial Services Authority was abolished and replaced with the Financial Conduct Authority and Prudential Regulation Authority.
That might have spelled consternation among bankers, but it is good news for lawyers who want to sink their teeth into this practice area.
According to James Gavine of Red Law Recruitment, “an ever-increasing focus on regulation in the financial markets has translated into firms having an ongoing need for lawyers with a regulatory skill-set”.
Director of legal recruitment at Robert Walters, Colin Loth, agrees.
“The busiest market at present is for financial services regulatory lawyers, both in-house and in private practice,” says Loth. “This has been largely driven by enforcement of – and the need for awareness of – new regulations.”
The growing complexity of compliance has transformed it into “a discipline of its own” says Loth, and those with knowledge and experience should expect to be fought over.
At the top of the pile will be lawyers with good experience and skill-sets, but, according to recruiters, partners might not pip others to the post.
“Mid-level PQE – three years’-plus – is sought-after, with solicitors having enough experience to work with some degree of autonomy, but not demanding partnership,” says Gavine.
“Law firms are conscious that, while the right level of experience is important, equally so is the need not to introduce senior associates or partners where it may cause destabilisation,” echoes Loth.
But where should lawyers look for the best roles? In the UK, London continues to be hot.
“Due to its pre-eminence as a finance hub London law firms and in-house departments have invested heavily in regulatory and compliance lawyers,” says Gavine.
But it wouldn’t hurt to look further north. Some of the best regulatory and compliance roles are in Manchester, which has a strong standalone financial services market, and Edinburgh, a solid base for the Scottish financial services industry.
Further afield, Lawrence Evans of JLegal says his team is increasingly seeing roles, especially on the in-house side, coming up in the Middle East “as the region becomes more sensitive to the need for higher standards of business ethics”.
This is an ever-changing area that promises to churn out a substantial amount of work across sectors including energy, utilities and telecoms as well as in the financial sector.
By all accounts, customers, investors and regulators allare getting tougher on non-compliance and corporate mistakes, and while that might mean hand-wringing for businesses, lawyers should take heed of the opportunities.