Lately, SSQ has been fielding a lot of questions from private practice partners about the ins and outs of having a Legal & Compliance Director vs a General Counsel, along with the optimal organisational hierarchy for these roles.

Interestingly, the frequency of these inquiries appears to be on the up… Could this mean that the SRA is finally gearing up for something big or could the Treasury / FCA be about to step in?!

While the above is purely speculation, what is undeniable is that the role of General Counsel or Compliance Director has firmly embedded itself in the core of private practice management, handling everything from SRA regulation and risk to compliance, financial crime, lateral partner hires, conflicts and GDPR (although the last two can differ between UK and US).

Although these positions might not always hold the partner title, they mirror the leadership responsibilities and decision-making authority akin to in-house General Counsels in major multinational corporations. In fact, some firms take it up a notch by actively seeking GCs from industry as opposed to private practice.

What is clear is that the need for seasoned General Counsels or Compliance Directors is set to intensify, driven by the SRA’s push for centralised and accountable compliance functions. This initiative also entails the expansion of larger, more comprehensive business acceptance teams. As a result, the necessity for experienced professionals to navigate and manage these evolving structures becomes increasingly crucial within the legal landscape.

Frustratingly, unlike the Cravath scale for law firm salaries, there isn’t a standardised benchmark for General Counsels or Compliance Directors. Most commonly it comes down to the size of the team, the regions they cover and the amount of responsibility (MLRO etc) the individual will have.

If you find yourself getting drawn into conversations on any of the above and seek guidance in navigating the intricacies of recruiting for these critical roles, don’t hesitate to reach out to Miles Gillhespy.

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