Making a career change from legal to compliance

Compliance may be perceived as boring but it’s a high demand area of law. As a result of tighter FSA regulations on hedge funds, lawyers are constantly faced with regulatory issues and the demand for compliance specialists is on the increase. In some cases lawyers have made the move into compliance as they consider it to be a career choice which will offer them job security.

The majority of lawyers working within financial services, investment banking and fund management tend to have a good understanding of compliance and can make the career change easily. It’s a perfect move for a law graduate or paralegal unable to secure a training contract. There are also a significant number of lawyers who have worked in a number of in-house legal departments for global banks who have developed their current position into a legal/compliance role which enables them to be more marketable in a difficult job market.

However in some cases making the transition from a legal career to a compliance role can be difficult for lawyers who have worked in private practice for a long time, as the average starting salary for a junior compliance associate is £35,000, which is a far cry from the average salary of a City lawyer.

On the plus side for law graduates and paralegals, the average salary for a paralegal is £25,000 (with little prospect of career development in the role) whilst a career in compliance will pay more and in some cases extra training and qualifications will be compensated by the employer.

Due to an influx of law graduates and paralegals with little or no prospects of securing a training contract, many investment banks are specifically targeting this pool of candidates, as a cost effective means of recruiting young talent and moulding them into compliance managers specifically trained to identify the daily risks which investment banks face from the FSA.

For paralegals and law graduates with average academics it’s worthwhile considering studying for a Securities Institute Diploma or Financial Planning Certificate, which is less academic but still a recognised qualification.