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Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Bill Steinman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong
Contributing Editor

Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Memo to law schools: The world needs compliance officers

Image courtesy of New England Law | BostonLaw-related employment for grads from American law schools isn’t exactly robust. In 2013, the ABA Journal said, only 57 percent of the that year’s JDs had full-time bar-passage-required jobs. At the same time, the world seems to have an insatiable appetite for compliance officers. That sounds like an opportunity.

Law schools could start producing compliance professionals by offering JD candidates upper-level courses and practice clinics. It’s not far fetched. Although no fresh JD will have mastery of anti-corruption laws, AML, antitrust, trade sanctions, and so on, they can know enough about the nuts and bolts of compliance itself to be useful and productive.

Teach them the hallmarks of an effective compliance program and how board and management oversight are supposed to work. Teach them how to train employees. How to identify and assess the risks of intermediaries and how due diligence is done. Teach them about feedback loops, internal reporting, and whistleblower laws and programs.

If the new JDs know those things on graduation day, they’ll know more about compliance than most lawyers decades their senior.

Law schools, as far as we know, haven’t caught on to the great employment prospects for compliance professionals. Sure, a few places are teaching courses about the FCPA and other white-collar criminal laws. Our contributing editor, Elizabeth Spahn, pioneered some of those courses. (One of her former students told us not long ago she’d landed a great compliance job at a well-known bank.) But aside from a few isolated examples, the concept of training students to be compliance officers hasn’t taken root in the law schools’ curricula.

A track to produce ready-to-go compliance pros would be exciting to design and teach. And we think plenty of JD candidates would jump at the chance to acquire marketable knowledge and skills in a practice area they could feel good about.


 Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.

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  1. Law Schools are catching up. NYU Law School taught its first regular curriculum class on compliance in Spring 2014 and will offer the course on a regular basis. We also have a specialized FCPA class taught to Professor Kevin Davis. My book, "The Law of Governance, Risk Management and Compliance" was published in March 2014 (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business) and is available as a course book or general introduction for practicing lawyers.

    Chicago, Northwestern, Fordham, and a number of other schools are also offering this class.

  2. I agree entirely with the sentiments expressed her. I've been working in compliance since 1981, even before it was popularly named such, and cannot endorse this piece highly enough.

    The University of New South Wales in Sydney was teaching a post graduate course in compliance in the late 1990s, under Prof Christine Parker and Dr Angus Corbett. It was a very practically based course that was extremely popular with the compliance fraternity in Australia for a number of years until both lecturers moved on to pastures greener and the university dropped the course unfortunately.

  3. We covered compliance law with equity and financial services law (heavily focusing on Asian and African issues) at the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies in the LLB course. That being said, I have received an extremely cold reception from recruiters and hiring managers in the compliance field who are totally uninterested in hiring someone who 'should be a lawyer'. Before recommending that law schools train compliance professionals better, I think you should ask why the industry isn't hiring the ones it has already produced.

  4. Georgetown Law offers a number of courses focused on corporate compliance and anti-corruption law. Since Spring 2008, we have offered “Corporate Controls, Compliance, and Governance”, which aims to educate future in-house lawyers, outside counsel and government attorneys working at regulatory agencies about effective corporate governance, internal control, and compliance programs. Additionally, we offer “International Efforts to Combat Corruption Seminar” (first taught in 2009), which reviews emerging trends in private sector prevention and compliance initiatives in the face of growing international efforts to prevent, detect and deter corruption. A similar course, “Global Anti-Corruption Seminar,” will be offered for the first time this Spring and will focus on FCPA law and investigations. Finally, Georgetown recently introduced a first-year course (“Week One: Law in a Global Context”) that brings to life the FCPA through problem-based learning.

  5. Legal & Compliance activities are becoming increasingly unrelated, at least outside the USA. In Compliance we need more risk managers, and fewer lawyers.

  6. In the spring I am teaching a class on Global Compliance and Ethics at Widener School of Law for their Masters of Jurisprudence students. I was surprised that I had to create the materials/book for the class by myself, as I expected that other law schools would have already created course materials.

    I am very excited to be teaching the class, and I agree that law schools should begin teaching upper division compliance and ethics classes to fill the obvious need for compliance practitioners. Excellent post!

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