Is Compliance Law the Career Track for You?
Most budding lawyers are familiar with the popular specialization options: criminal, family, labor, etc. However, there are dozens of lesser known legal fields that not only offer exciting opportunities for creative attorneys but also tend to pay exceedingly well.
One of these virtually unknown legal specializations primed for growth is compliance law. Often called regulatory compliance, this field is concerned with helping organizations pursue their goals within the guidelines of existing and evolving laws and regulations. If this sounds up your legal career alley, keep reading for more information on compliance law.
What Is Compliance?
Compliance is acting in accordance with a set of rules or requests. In professional spheres, compliance most often relates to a set of laws or regulations created by a body in power, like an organization’s board of directors, an industry association or the government. Almost every business must maintain compliance in some form, but doing so can be confusing and expensive. This is because the rules requiring compliance often vary from industry to industry and from business to business.
A common example of compliance rules concerns the security of payment information. Most merchants must adhere to the PCI DSS, a set of standards that control how consumer payment information must be protected at various stages of a transaction. Inability to comply with the PCI DSS results in fines and eventually sanctions, which prevent merchants from accepting popular payment cards.
Unfortunately, like other compliance standards, the PCI DSS can be unclear. As a result, merchants might not adhere to the correct rules, which means they are subject to costly penalties. That’s why compliance lawyers are becoming more in-demand — to help businesses navigate the increasingly complex world of compliance.
Who Is Affected by Compliance?
It’s safe to say that nearly everyone is affected by compliance. Compliance rules occur across the finance industry, in tech, in health care, agriculture and more, affecting organizations’ security policies, hiring practices and other aspects of their operations. Many industries are targeted by not just one type of compliance standard but several, which means a business likely needs to need to juggle regulations from different bodies to remain free from penalty.
Even consumers are affected by compliance. Thanks to many compliance rules, businesses produce safer and more secure products, ensuring consumers have a more positive experience. However, consumers also might notice higher prices for certain products because businesses must devote more time (and therefore more money) to complying with new, unfamiliar and complex rules for which they need the help of compliance lawyers.
Where Do Compliance Attorneys Practice?
Attorneys, more than other professionals, have flexibility in where they practice, and this holds true for compliance lawyers. Larger organizations usually have compliance professionals on staff to ensure compliance is met — and compliance lawyers are increasingly vital members of those teams. However, compliance attorneys can also dedicate themselves to a firm, which either specializes in compliance law or offers compliance law as one of a suite of legal services.
Because of their unique knowledge and skill, compliance attorneys with mid-career experience earn an average salary of $106,000. It is important to compare this income against that of other law specialties; for instance, a comparably educated and experienced defense attorney in criminal law takes home around $81,000 per year on average, and an equivalent family lawyer claims an average of $69,000 per year in wages.
It’s important to note that compliance attorneys most often function in a consulting capacity, which means they aren’t typically “practicing law” — i.e. representing organizations or individuals in conflicts or court. While it is useful to graduate with a J.D., you might focus your efforts on earning an online law degree with a specialization in compliance, which will provide you with the essential training for assisting organizations in compliance matters.
Why Does Compliance Matter?
Many aspiring attorneys don’t want to get into law for the money — though the relatively high salaries are enticing. Instead, the promise of doing work that matters is what pulls many would-be lawyers in. Fortunately, compliance law matters, and it matters more every day. That’s because compliance regulations don’t exist for no reason; they often work to improve how organizations function in one way or another. Better businesses are better for everyone, so by devoting your life to compliance, you can help make the world a better place.