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How many times do we read about stress, depression and disillusionment in the practice of law? Law is reported to have one of the highest depression rates of all professions. Perhaps this is a product of law becoming just a business, with making money as the single goal. The practice of law today can leave lawyers longing for something other than taking depositions, writing contracts or helping one company make more money at the expense of another. Maybe lawyers want to do something more meaningful, something more than fixing messes after they occur. Perhaps there is a need for something else that uses our skills, but gives us more of a sense of meaning. For many of us, the answer is in a new field that has been developing, mostly unnoticed, but in plain view before us. This field, which has taken on the name of “compliance and ethics,” involves an entire practice devoted to getting companies and other large organizations to obey the rules and act ethically. Those in the compliance and ethics field are pledged to do what it takes to prevent and detect organizational misconduct. They work to prevent violations by companies, nonprofits, universities, governments and other large organizations. A first reaction to this description might be, “Isn’t that what corporate lawyers do already � tell companies what to do so they don’t break the law?” On the surface, this might seem to be just business as usual. But, on closer examination, there are striking differences between the practice of law and the field of compliance and ethics. Goal is to prevent misconduct First, compliance and ethics is truly preventative. The compliance and ethics person does not wait for trouble to emerge � he or she goes into every part of a company to ensure that employees know the rules, know how to conduct business ethically and have the tools to do the right thing. Even more significant, this new field is highly activist. A lawyer may ethically wait for a client to enter the office seeking advice; the compliance and ethics professional may not wait. He or she must make the best professional effort to ensure misconduct does not occur. An easy way to see this difference is to picture the lawyer as the source of the law in a company, but the compliance and ethics person as the one who translates advice into action. Compliance and ethics is also not limited to law. The field includes ensuring a culture of ethics and values in the organization. Experience has taught us that, even if the goal is to ensure legal conduct, there must still be an emphasis on values to actually inspire employees. So the field is about doing the right thing, not just legal minimums. And while the field draws on lawyers for advice and assistance, it is a multidisciplinary field, relying more on sound management practices than law. It requires skill in such diverse areas as project management, adult learning, auditing, motivation, investigating, mass communication and selling. Legal skills are a baseline, but not sufficient for a compliance and ethics person to complete the job. As in the practice of law, there is stress in this field, and it is not for the faint of heart. But it is not the empty-hearted stress of litigation. It comes from being the champion of doing the right thing at times when others still need to be persuaded. We may feel stress, but it is the stress of fighting the good fight. If this field holds promise as an alternative, how much opportunity does it truly offer? Is it limited to a few compliance officers at a handful of blue chip companies? There may have been a time when there were only a handful of such positions, but that day is past. The field has burgeoned over the years and today is global and pervasive. No longer is it associated with just a few highly regulated industries. Today, the list of risks addressed by compliance and ethics professionals is enormous; in Working for Integrity, co-author Joshua Leet and I easily listed more than 100 risks that such programs address � environmental, antitrust, money laundering, Food and Drug Administration, privacy, accounting fraud, employment discrimination . . . the list goes on for pages. Nor is this limited by types of organizations. Corporations, partnerships, universities, hospitals, charities, government agencies � they are realizing the need for compliance and ethics programs and the personnel who make them work. The city of Chicago, for example, just appointed a compliance officer. There has been a trend in government to make such programs mandatory; most recently this has been proposed for government contractors. The range of positions is also quite broad; more than 800 job titles relate to compliance and ethics. At the upper end, the chief ethics and compliance officer titles mean executive-level positioning, power and compensation. Ultimately, though, perhaps the best reason for a lawyer to consider this field is that he or she could be the one person who stands in the way of the next corporate crime and successfully prevents another Enron or Siemens debacle. Joe Murphy, a lawyer, is a co-author of Working for Integrity (Society of Corporate Compliance & Ethics 2006). He can be reached at [email protected].

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