Compliance – Ife Ogunleye

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Ifejesu Ogunleye, Associate, Aluko  & Oyebode

Ife graduated with a law degree from the University of Manchester. After spending a short while working in a law firm, I moved into the policy field and worked on various policy and financial regulatory issues for a trade organisation before leaving to go to law school. Since law school, I has been working as a compliance and investigations lawyer. 

 

Please note that all opinions expressed in this interview are the opinions of the individual interviewed. They do not necessarily represent the opinion of their employer or of Legally Engaged.

Compliance and investigations law is about helping clients carry on business in a manner that is in accordance with laws and regulations. Companies would usually have thousands of rules and legislation that is applicable to them and so would often need help determining what obligations they have and how to best comply with them. Investigations kicks in when companies need to figure out particular incidents that have occurred within their organisations for a myriad of reasons.

The work involves a huge amount of research. In determining a company’s compliance obligations you start by compiling a list of all the laws, regulations etc. that applies to the company’s operations. There’s also a significant amount of drafting. If I’m working on an investigation, then I’ll be reviewing the company’s documents, carrying out research, drafting memos and reports and communicating regularly with the client either via email or conference calls.

I had spent some time offering quasi-compliance services to companies in a previous job I had, knew that I enjoyed working in that space and had been thinking of focusing on the compliance sector after law school especially as I realized that this was not something a lot of companies paid much attention to, to their detriment. Also, not a lot of law firms offered full-fledged compliance services so it seemed like a sector in which there was still much ground to cover and enough room to grow and develop.

As with any other area of law, attention to detail is quite important. You also have to be quite analytical and be able to make logical deductions. Having excellent communication skills is non-negotiable, as is the ability to work in a team effectively. Apart from these, it helps if you’re motivated, determined and driven.

The client list is actually quite varied across various industries but they tend to be multinational companies.

The workload can be quite intense. Offering compliance legal services involves a huge volume of work, understanding the clients business and developing a framework that covers all of the clients’ obligations. With investigations, you’re frequently looking over transactions that happened months, or sometimes years ago; reviewing tons of emails, documents etc.; interviewing people involved; identifying any issues and pulling all that information together into a format that is helpful to the client. You’re frequently doing this to a very tight deadline so it does mean a lot of long days and late nights.

One of the most difficult things to deal with is the sheer amount of work involved I think. It usually involves working a lot of late nights and weekends.

I think the most rewarding part of the job is seeing an investigation to the end – either helping a client successfully navigating a criminal investigation into its conduct or seeing a client implement recommendations you’ve given them at the end of an internal investigation to become a more ethical company.

Studying is always very different from practicing – law school would never really give you the technical knowledge of particular industries for instance but there are skills that you pick up that come in handy wherever you end up. Having good analytical abilities or communication skills helps when you move into work.

People are truly only now beginning to pay attention to compliance in Nigeria and compared to other jurisdictions, the sector is still in its infant stage so I definitely see myself continuing to practice in this area.

One highlight was accompanying a client to a high-profile hearing before a Senate Committee and seeing that we had addressed all the issues raised by the Committee in the investigation beforehand. All the work we had done meant that the client could confidently represent itself before the Committee.

Just get out there and be proactive. Send in applications for internships, talk to people in the industry and keep up to date with the news.

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