What Is Compliance & Why Is It Such A Popular Alternative Career For Lawyers?

by marc on February 10, 2014

What Is Compliance?

Compliance jobs are getting a lot of attention as a hot alternative career for lawyers right now, and pay is rising. But what is compliance?

Watch our interview with Kimberly Strong to find out how an ethics & compliance officer helps a company. Kimberly loves being able to use her law degree in this field, and shares great advice for others looking to get into compliance, whether you’re just graduating law school or leaving the law.

Join JD Careers Out There for access to this and more full-length career path interviews, transcripts and short professional development videos.


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Today’s Guest

Kimberly Strong, CECOEthics & Compliance Officer Kimberly Strong
Title: Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer and VP, Major Energy Company
City: New York, NY
Law School: Ohio State University Moritz College of Law in Columbus, OH
College: Wright State University in Dayton, OH
Previous Careers: Kim is a leader in the Ethics & Compliance world. She’s been working on Compliance issues since the year 2000 at major companies like Quest Communications, Century Link and America Online.
Videos: What is compliance? & Kimberly’s Career Advice

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This is a transcript of the preview video on compliance careers. Join JD Careers Out There for access to full transcripts and career path interviews, plus professional development videos.

Luber: Hey everyone – Marc Luber here. Today on JD Careers Out There, we’re exploring an alternative legal career that everybody’s talking about: Compliance Jobs. We’ve got a great guest to guide us through it – she’s a Chief Ethics & Compliance Officer with a ton of experience. This is gonna be great stuff – so stick around! [theme song]

Alright – as you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths you can do with a law degree – both in the law and out of law. We do that to help you find a career that fits you and help you succeed. Today’s guest is Kimberly Strong. She’s the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer at one of the largest energy companies in the United States. She’s a leader in the ethics and compliance space – Kim’s been working on these compliance issues since the year 2000 at major companies like Quest Communications, Century Link and America Online. Her previous work includes litigation experience and junior and senior level in-house counsel experience. She’s got a lot to tell us – so let’s meet Kimberly! Kimberly, welcome to the show.

Kimberly: Thanks, I’m happy to be here.

Luber: I’m glad you’re here. So Kimberly, we’re hearing all about compliance jobs. People are hearing a lot of talk about this being a great opportunity for lawyers and law students. So I’m going to be asking you about a typical day, who fits this path best, how to break in and how to succeed.

But first, start with this and tell us, what does ‘compliance’ even mean?

Kimberly: Compliance is all about making sure that employees are making the best decisions possible on behalf of the organization where they work. They understand not only the rules and regulations that apply to the business, but they also understand the values and how the company wants to do business.

Luber: Interesting. OK, so then what is the mission of a Chief Ethics and Compliance officer?

Kimberly: The mission of the Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer is to make sure that employees have the training, the communication, the resources to make good decisions on behalf of the corporation.

Luber: OK. Now the buzzword that we all hear is “compliance” but your role is “ethics and compliance.” What’s the ‘ethics’ part?

Kimberly: The “ethics” part is bringing in the values of the individual employees as well as the values of the corporation. So it’s not just understanding the rules and the laws and the policies and the procedures; that’s the baseline. But understanding it’s not just about what we do but how we do it – and giving people the tools where if they don’t have the rule or they don’t have the law, they can understand the kind of decision the corporation would want them to make that would be in the best interests of the business.

Luber: OK. Now are the titles always tied together? Is it always “ethics and compliance,” because a lot of times when I’m looking around on the internet or reading about roles, I just see the word ‘compliance’ without the word ‘ethics’? Is it that there are some jobs that are “ethics and compliance” and other jobs are other aspects of compliance?

Kimberly: It can be. It really depends on how the corporation has set up the position. Sometimes there is an “ethics officer,” sometimes there is a “compliance officer,” sometimes there is an “ethics and compliance officer.” Or the titles can actually cover a whole spectrum of responsibilities. A lot of companies now are going to titles like “Chief Integrity Officer” – so they’re tying together all of the aspects of the business – that could also include risk management and privacy and whatever else is applying to that particular segment of the business that they’re in.

Luber: Wow! Interesting! OK. Well we’re going to stick with your area of “ethics and compliance” today. People with your title are called a CECO, so Chief Ethics and Compliance Officer. So what are some of the main things that a CECO does then in the course of the work?

Kimberly: You usually look at the business; you make sure that all levels of the business, all levels of management in particular understand what are the polices, what are the procedures, what are the rules that apply to the business; what are the resources for getting questions answered. We usually use the US Sentencing Guidelines for Organizations as a baseline for establishing a program so that means that you’re doing training, you’re doing communications. You have a standard of business conduct. You’re running a help line to make sure that if employees need advice and they want to ask you questions anonymously, they have the resources to do that

Luber: Alright – if you’re watching on YouTube, please give us the thumbs up if this was helpful. And whether you’re podcasting or watching, come visit us at JDCOT.com. There in the full interview with Kimberly, you’ll hear lots more about what it’s like to work in compliance jobs, how you can break in and how you can succeed. If you’re already watching at the site, you can just scroll down to the full video. Make sure you all join our Membership – that way you get access to all the helpful video content and the transcripts. Thanks again for watching everybody. I’m Marc Luber and I’ll see you soon. [THEME]

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What about being a compliance officer sounds appealing to you? Let us know if you have any questions about breaking into this alternative career for lawyers in the Comments section below.

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