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Booming field attracts alumni expertise, student interest

Sept. 21, 2015:  Alumni working at Brown Brothers Harriman, Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program, and the Lending Club are among those who have come together to aid New England Law | Boston graduates prepare for compliance careers. Many alumni find this practice context to be a good fit for their skills and inclinations, but they typically had not considered compliance when in law school.
Black's Law Dictionary defines "compliance" as "A confirmation that a manufacturer can do what they say they can according to the rules and standards required by a contract," but the definition fails to communicate the field's modern scope nor the current "boom in hiring for compliance specialists," as described in U.S. News & World Report. "Companies are looking for professionals with the legal knowledge to help recognize and fix problems before they start," notes the magazine, which points to the Dodd-Frank and Affordable Care Acts as sources for the rapid growth in interest.

Compliance work spans many substantive areas of law, including financial services, health, education, information technology, employment, immigration, and sports. Compliance may involve anti-money laundering rules for banks, procedures to maintain hospital-patient privacy, or regulations concerning financial-product advertising.

"In recognition of today's wealth of compliance opportunities, we have taken several steps to increase student awareness of these options," said Dean John F. O'Brien. New offerings, including a network-ready advisory council of knowledgeable practitioners and a Compliance Pathway to inform course selections, are among the recent developments distinguishing New England Law from its peers.

Curricular and programmatic offerings

In 2015–2016, New England Law is offering two compliance courses. "Very few law schools offer compliance-related courses at all," notes Professor Eric A. Lustig, director of the Center for Business Law. "In addition to an existing course focused on the investment management industry, we have added a foundational course to benefit students interested in the field as a whole."

Compliance course students thoroughly review the basic tools and roles of compliance professionals and consider common themes across different industries before exploring knowledge required in specific industries. Financial Sector Compliance employs a real-world, hands-on approach. Students define the role of compliance and build a successful program; they then navigate the key relationships and inherent tensions existing between internal and external business partners, legal counsel, and regulatory agencies.

The new online Compliance Pathway assists students' investigation of needed skills and expertise. The interactive Compliance Pathway Guide lists 20 courses that can be selected to explore future career interests. 

The law school has held several compliance events. Faculty experts and large-firm, compliance practitioners were showcased in "What Stays in Vegas," a discussion on privacy and data security, and "Affordable Care Act Debate: Legality of Tax Subsidies through Federally Operated Exchanges." Additional events and activities are planned.

Faculty and alumni expertise

Faculty associated with the enhanced compliance emphasis include Associate Professor Gary M. Bishop, director, Legal Research and Writing; Professor Lustig; and Professor David M. Siegel, director, Center for Law and Social Responsibility. Those with health, immigration, nonprofit, sports law, and other relevant backgrounds also are contributing.

The newly formed New England Law Compliance Advisory Council (NELCAC) includes Thomas Shack III '00, comptroller of the commonwealth, among its 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.

NELCAC member Patrick Shea '98 earned his New England Law JD as an evening student, while doing compliance work for Scudder Investments. He currently serves as managing director and partner of Cordium, a market-leading provider of regulatory compliance consulting, software, and accounting and tax services to the asset management and securities industry, and he oversees the firm's Boston office.

Amanda Bailey '14 focused on securities regulation in law school and earned academic credit for a Business Practice Credit internship with the Massachusetts Securities Division (MSD). She impressed Shea in an informational interview arranged by Professor Lustig and was hired as an associate in Cordium’s New York office. Bailey subsequently advised Erin Gaudreau '14 about another opening. Gaudreau had also gained valuable MSD experience through a Business Practice Credit internship, and she was hired as a Cordium associate in Boston.

"As we expand our compliance offerings, we look forward to further synergies of this nature," said Professor Lustig. "It's a growing field with marvelous potential."