What Kind of Law Do You Do? Part Four


Compliance —A confirmation that a manufacturer can do what they say they can according to the rules and standards required by a contract.”
-Black’s Law Dictionary

Guess what’s back, back again?  You guys really enjoyed reading my posts last year about different legal careers so I thought I’d bring it back!  Also, one of my requirements this semester could be completed by going to another one so I thought I’d fill you in on what this is about.  This year, my class schedule excluded the opportunity to go to a lot of them, but I actually could go to one that I was really excited about attending: a panel about compliance law.  When I saw where the panelists worked, I knew I had to go to this.

The area of compliance law is a generally new concept in many businesses.  It focuses on ensuring that companies comply (duh) with federal and state laws.  While this seems like a definitive area for lawyers to work, traditionally it wasn’t.  However, the need became more apparent for actual lawyers to help with how businesses comply with laws.  Compliance lawyers work in house for companies, typically side by side with the actual legal department.  Depending on the industry, the compliance department and the legal department are the same department and in others, they are separate entities which work together.  There are some reasons for that, such as the focus of compliance lawyers on procedures are in place to ensure laws are followed before decisions are made.

Compliance lawyers act in a counseling role to their business clients.  When a business wants to take certain actions regarding a marketing or sales decision, a compliance officer acts as the “moral compass” of the company.  They’ll point out risks that the business faces with making that decision.  For example, they might point out the potential backlash from consumers for a legal decision that won’t be popular in society.  Compliance officers also work to avoid enforcement actions from regulatory agencies, like the SEC, FINRA, FDA, etc.  An extremely prevalent issue in global compliance is corruption and bribery since that is completely normal in a large number of societies across the globe.  In the pharma industry, compliance officers also ensure how companies market to doctors and how they compensate doctors meets the standards the FDA laid out.

To succeed in the compliance area of law, law students should work on their oral communication skills as compliance lawyers have to articulate laws to lay persons in a way they can understand.  Additionally, these lawyers require great analytical skills to anticipate what might go wrong from a company’s decisions.  Finally, law students interested in this area should look at working for law firms, accounting firms, or a regulator (SEC, FINRA, FDA) to gain experience prior to working for a company as a compliance officer.

So there you have it, my brief overview of compliance law.  If you have any questions, let me know and I’ll try to find out more for you!  Also, let me know if there are any other areas of law you’d like an overview on!  I typically focus on business law since that’s what I’m interested in, but I can always reach out to lawyers in other fields to find out information about their careers!

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