Financial Services Law and Compliance

Career Path Introduction

Financial services law refers to the laws and regulations that govern the services and transactions of investment banks, hedge funds, investment advisers, insurance carriers, brokerages and trading firms, securities and futures exchanges, self-regulatory agencies, business entities issuing securities, and consumer finance businesses.

Lawyers who focus on this practice area include private practitioners in law firms who represent financial services entities and in-house counsel in both large and small companies. They also include compliance personnel at those entities and a multitude of government regulators charged with enforcing laws applicable to the financial services industries.

Areas of focus within financial services law include securities regulation and transactions; futures, derivative, and swap regulations and transactions; banking regulation and transactions; and investment advisor regulation.

Financial services lawyers can be found in law firms and private industry as well as in government departments and agencies such as the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the U.S. Department of Justice, and the Office of the Comptroller of Currency at the U.S. Treasury Department, and the Federal Reserve Banks.

On a typical day, a financial services lawyer in the private sector may advise clients on regulatory compliance, create and implement policies and procedures for their clients, help clients on structuring transactions, interact with a host of regulators, and work with industry groups on providing comments on new regulations or writing industry white papers. They may also defend companies accused of violating a wide variety of regulations and laws. They may create documents as required by the regulators or counsel clients on issues related to privacy and data protection or compliance with federal regulations on disclosure.

Lawyers working for the government may evaluate complaints from the public about financial misconduct or investigate stock market transactions that raise questions of insider trading. They may prosecute individuals accused by the government of fraudulent trading practices. They may advise public officials and legislators about policy or draft new legislation.

Financial services lawyers benefit from top-notch legal writing skills, creativity, excellent analytic skills, a facility for working with financial data, and a solid understanding of complex regulatory rules.

During law school, students aspiring to this practice area can gain valuable experience as externs for government regulators and self-regulatory agencies, including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, National Futures Association, and the Federal Reserve Banks. Others serve externships with a variety of financial services institutions, including investment banks, brokerage and trading firms, futures and commodities exchanges, hedge funds, mutual funds, and investment advisors.

>> Check out our information for students about externships.

Chicago-Kent offers a J.D. Certificate Program in Financial Markets Compliance—one of the first of its kind at an American law school—that provides a rich curriculum in financial markets regulation, including classes in securities, commodities, and banking regulation, along with its capstone compliance course.

>> Learn about the certificate program curriculum and requirements.

>> View J.D. courses relating to financial services law and compliance.

Related: Chicago-Kent also offers an LL.M. in Financial Services Law as well as a joint degree program whereby a student can earn both a J.D. and an LL.M. in Financial Services Law on an accelerated basis. Students who want a deeper understanding of compliance can enroll in Chicago-Kent's non-degree, online-only certificate in Financial Markets Compliance.


  • Felice Batlan
    Professor of Law, Associate Dean for Faculty, Director of the Institute for Compliance, and Co-Director of the Institute for Law and the Humanities
  • William A. Birdthistle
    Professor of Law
  • Henry H. Perritt, Jr.
    Professor of Law and Director of the Graduate Program in Financial Services Law


Academic Centers and Institutes

The Institute for Compliance promotes careers in financial compliance, prepares students for such careers, advances knowledge about the importance of compliance, and offers events for Chicago's compliance and legal community.

Student Organizations

The Corporate Law Society is committed to promoting the study of corporate law and to preparing its members for successful careers in practice areas such as business planning, financial services, securities regulation, real estate, and tax law.