Compliance is a growing field of practice across multiple areas of law. Increasingly companies put compliance risk among the most important corporate governance issues facing them. Moreover, as “JD plus” jobs proliferate, the demand for hiring both at the entry level and for former students currently in practice who are experienced in the compliance field will continue to grow. The growth in compliance jobs comes at a time in shifting demand for legal jobs for law school graduates. Traditional law firm entry level jobs at large law firms, which were the staple of on campus recruiting before 2007, have not returned to pre-2007 levels even with the end of the recession. Technological changes, greater in-house hiring, and better creation of efficiencies have reduced demand for large law firms, which were the traditional training ground for in-depth legal skills and soft skills.
Law schools have responded to the demand shift in entry level hiring with a supply side response – classes in compliance. In some cases, law schools have set up compliance certificates or degrees in areas such as health care and business law. There is now even a casebook devoted to compliance. Yet, with all of these efforts at creating opportunities for careers in compliance, many programs and classes in compliance are nothing other than dressed up versions of classes in white collar crime or regulation or lectures on latest case developments that one might find in a continuing legal education program. These courses do not focus on the substantive areas needs practice with the highest demand for compliance (in-house legal and JD plus jobs) and do not teach the analytical skills necessary to succeed in such jobs. Nor do they focus on the special context within which compliance operates – ideally independent of the “business” but always a part of it. Essentially, law schools have misdiagnosed the demand side – it is not merely the particular type of class (compliance) but also the substance of such classes with the type of quality offering necessary to maximize student short term (entry level hiring) and long term (preparation for ever-shifting analytically complex practice challenges).
This Essay suggests an alternative approach to teaching compliance – one that focuses on the design and implementation of compliance programs. The Essay explores the determinants of why teaching compliance is important, the pitfalls of current approaches and the types of teaching innovations that sophisticated compliance practice requires. First, it explains what compliance is. Then, it explains the basis for the current economic drivers of the increased focus on compliance by firms. Next, it identifies the drivers of illegality before explaining how law school and in-house compliance training might be better structured in both analytical approach and substance. Finally, the Essay concludes with some thoughts about issues in compliance in which courses might place greater emphasis.
D. Daniel Sokol, Teaching Compliance, 84 U. Cin. L. Rev. 399 (2016), available at