With the recent swell in accounting scandals, securities law has become an increasingly enticing profession for current and upcoming lawyers. Private firms are willing to pay hefty prices for lawyers that specialize in securities-fraud law, especially those with experience at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
This experience is extremely valuable to many corporations as the demand for lawyers to assist with fraud continues to shoot upward. So valuable is this experience that salaries at the biggest firms in Los Angeles and New York City are between $500,000 and $1.6 million per year for lawyers who specialize in securities-fraud and have government experience. These salaries are a far cry from government salary, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, average about $99,000 per year.
In the early days of the accounting scandals– Enron, WorldCom, Tyco and other companies paid over $100 million to law firms internally investigating their companies – it is no wonder that law firms are willing to shell out the big bucks for lawyers with experience. In the end, they plan on realizing a high return-on-investment for these employees.
The growth and demand for securities-fraud lawyers in big firms, as well as in the government is fuelling an increase in law students seeking to specialize in this area. Firms are growing these departments at high rates, because the government priority of cracking down on corporate fraud ensures greater workloads. This creates a major business opportunity for lawyers. It also becomes a more appealing and interesting subject for law students.
Although the pay opportunity at the SEC is not nearly as great as the private sector, many attorneys are employed there because they receive invaluable experience. It is a launching ground for those hoping to work at the big-name firms later. Because the SEC is receiving a lot of publicity and high-profile cases right now, lawyers find they gain name-recognition there that is invaluable to their careers in the long run.
As the investigations continue, it doesn’t appear that the demand or the price tags for securities-law will slow down any time soon.