Compliance is the practical implementation of law within organizations, through understanding external rules imposed on an organization and developing mechanisms of internal controls to ensure adherence to these rules. Compliance professionals analyze regulations, assess internal risks, create organizational policies and practices, train employees, monitor institutional conduct, investigate suspected breaches of corporate policy and aid in remedial measures. Much of the work involves direct contact with various units of a business or entity, so it’s a great fit for someone who wants to blend an interest or existing background in a business or industry with the operation of the law. The interactive nature of compliance means that effective oral and written communication skills are essential, as well as an interest in working with a wide range of people.
Demand for compliance professionals has increased dramatically with the advent of major new regulatory structures and increases in regulatory agency enforcement activity in health care and financial services at both state and federal levels. While legal departments or outside law firms previously ensured compliance, increasingly it is compliance departments, run by a Chief Compliance Officer, who have this responsibility. The Chief Compliance Officer typically reports directly to the CEO and/or the Board of Directors and works closely with governmental agencies and the corporation’s legal department.
Compliance work spans many substantive areas of law, including financial services (e.g., securities, investment advising, banking and insurance), health (e.g., hospitals and health providers, health insurers and exchanges, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology), education, information technology, employment, immigration and even sports. Compliance may involve implementing anti-money laundering rules for a bank, developing procedures to maintain patient privacy in a hospital, or analyzing regulations concerning advertising financial products to the public. Almost any organization that has employees or sells goods or services to the public is affected by federal and state regulations, and compliance professionals work at the intersection of these regulatory structures and the entity’s operations.
Compliance can also occur in an external context while focusing on organizations. Regulatory authorities enforcing regulations rely on examiners, auditors and reviewers to inspect regulated entities. Consulting agencies work with both regulated organizations and regulatory authorities to assist in related efforts. Compliance opportunities exist within each of these realms.
In addition to outstanding communication skills, a solid grounding in reading, analyzing and applying regulations is essential. Since most compliance work occurs within organizations, a grounding in the basic legal forms of for-profit and nonprofit entities is important, as well as in the basic legal relationships surrounding employees. Beyond that, students interested in compliance should develop their knowledge in the law regulating the business or industry of interest.
New England Law Compliance Advisory Council (NELCAC)
The recently formed New England Law Compliance Advisory Council (NELCAC) includes includes active and distinguished practitioners from a range of industries. These professionals constitute a valuable resource for the law school as it further develops compliance programming and can provide expert counseling to students.