Corporate Counsel Advice: 3 Tips for Building Your Compliance Team

Tips for Building Your Compliance Team

Facing increasingly stringent government regulations, corporations are under more compliance pressure than ever. Many organizations are relying on corporate counsel to help manage their company’s risk exposure and meet ever-shifting compliance standards. In fact, in the Association of Corporate Counsel's 2015 Chief Legal Officer (CLO) Survey96 percent of respondents rated ethics and compliance as important for 2015, and one in four rated compliance as “extremely important.” 

This trend is affecting companies across various sectors. For example, healthcare organizations are struggling to comply with Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions, some of which will continue to roll out through 2015 and beyond. Banking institutions and other organizations supervised by the Federal Reserve are also contending with daunting regulatory compliance challenges.

In this highly regulated climate, many legal departments are building an in-house counsel compliance team, complete with a compliance manager, analysts and other professionals in this area. These specialized teams conduct research on compliance rules and regulations, identify compliance issues, develop compliance policies and suggest changes to bolster compliance procedures.

If you’re a CLO or compliance manager tasked with setting up a corporate compliance team, here are three tips to keep in mind:

1. Compare notes with competitors.

If you’re not sure where to begin with building a compliance team, take a look at other organizations in your industry. What kind of compliance teams have been built by corporate counsel at competing companies? Did they hire a full-time compliance manager or bring in a consultant? Are they requiring all compliance team members to take special regulatory courses? How often does the team meet to discuss regulatory issues? When you explore how other companies are structuring and running their compliance committees, this might help you establish best practices for your own team.

2. Offer ongoing training.

To ensure your compliance team keeps pace with frequently changing regulatory demands, continuing education is essential. Fortunately, there’s an abundance of compliance training opportunities available for organizations in every sector. For example, The American Bankers Association offers free online compliance courses for its members’ employees. The Association also oversees the Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager (CRCM) designation for professionals working in the finance industry. For companies in the healthcare industry, the Office of Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has developed a series of compliance program guidance documents and also offers free online training. In addition, the Association of Corporate Counsel has assembled resources for building or augmenting your corporate compliance program, and the American Bar Association's corporate compliance committee also offers relevant resources to assist in-house counsel and compliance professionals in developing and maintaining effective compliance programs. As you search for ideal training opportunities for your compliance team, turn to associations within your industry for guidance.

3. Bring in a legal consultant.

To round out your compliance team, consider engaging a legal consultant with regulatory expertise. Not only can a specialized consultant help your organization tackle compliance challenges and avoid hefty fines, he or she can also offer your compliance team invaluable insights, education and guidance about regulatory demands.

As companies across virtually every sector grapple with stricter regulatory demands, it’s become critical for corporate counsel to build highly specialized compliance teams. Perhaps this is why salaries for compliance specialists are on the rise. According to Robert Half's 2015 Legal Salary Guide, a compliance manager with seven to nine years of experience can expect to earn a starting salary between $91,750 and $110,000 — a 4.8 percent increase from 2014.

What pointers do you have for developing a compliance team? Please share your experience below.