5 reasons looking at opportunities overseas might be a good move, says AJ Fox Compliance

Whilst for some the idea of swapping rainy England for the sunny beaches of Australia or the lively streets of Hong Kong may be a no-brainer, we consistently hear from law firms that they struggle to get interest from their own risk and compliance professionals for these sorts of opportunities - here are a few reasons why opportunities overseas might be worth serious consideration:

1. Big Firm Compliance in a Small Team 

Many of the opportunities that sit outside of the UK, be they in Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore or elsewhere, are there to facilitate a “follow the sun” compliance function offering 24/7 service to the firm globally. Yet these teams are often much smaller than their counterpart functions in London, this means you can get exposure to "Big Firm Compliance" but in a smaller team. This can open up the opportunity for you to take on a higher level of responsibility and become more of a “point person” for the local fee-earners. It also means that the unusual and left-field issues will be shared out between a much smaller pool of professionals giving you a better chance to get involved in some less routine work.

2. New Jurisdictions, New Risks

Working in a new jurisdiction will give you great exposure to different legislation, regulation and regulators which will build both technical and soft skill sets. But not only will you deal with new rules you will also get the chance to deal with less tangible risk issues, such as cultural differences. Often a significant part of the learning opportunity you get from any role move, whether internally or externally, is in dealing with a new partnership or fee-earner population and with their attitude and approach towards risk & compliance. This is an opportunity to really put your stakeholder management skills to the test and to grow in confidence when dealing with high level risk issues.

3. Stand out from the Crowd

We are really only at the early stages of law firm globalisation and whilst there are many firms establishing global risk and compliance teams outside of the UK these firms are often desperate for experienced candidates who have worked in global compliance functions. If, for example, you have dealt with systems such as Intapp or have experience clearing international conflicts issues and dealing with the inherent tensions between competing conflicts rules (e.g. ABA vs SRA) you may find your skill set is very much in demand and highly appreciated in your new team.

4. Be a Subject Matter Expert

Europe and the UK are relatively progressive from a risk and compliance perspective, especially if we are considering issues such as money laundering risk. You may find your experience is unique and perhaps more valuable in other offices, this can give you the opportunity to operate at a higher level of autonomy as a subject matter expert in some areas. In addition you may find you are called upon to train more junior compliance professionals who do not have the benefit of your international experience.

5. Build your Reputation within your Firm 

Working in an overseas office will give you more exposure to senior stakeholders in jurisdictions you otherwise may not deal with; you may get the opportunity to meet stakeholders you will have only ever dealt with over email or over the phone. As you progress your career this profile building can be an important part of your development and having the buy-in of international partners will be beneficial if you are working towards senior management level roles.  

Overall international moves can be a significant career opportunity giving you the platform to take a step up in terms of responsibility and exposure. As law firms globalise so do their support functions and Risk & Compliance is a large part of that so we anticipate more international opportunities in coming years. So if you have dreamt of being able to surf on Bondi beach every weekend, spend your Friday nights partying in Lan Kwai Fong or filling your lunch-breaks with shopping trips on Madison Avenue you might just have chosen the right career.

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