Regulatory lawyers are in demand. Across all industries, regulatory lawyers are in demand. We are seeing the demand in the pharmaceutical, medical device, healthcare, energy, chemical, consumer products, and food industries. Lawyers who stay apprised of, and advise on, regulations are essential to companies and that skillset is only becoming more and more paramount. As companies continue to feel more scrutinized, regulatory lawyers are becoming increasingly important. Just relying on outside counsel to advise on regulations is becoming less common, as companies feel that they need a resident expert in the ranks to advise on a daily basis about a myriad of regulatory issues. Indeed, our clients now want their regulatory lawyers to be in-house and give advice before the problems arise; to be able to anticipate regulatory/compliance issues and build the proper protocols.
Regulatory lawyers have skills that are transferable among various industries. At its core, the real skill in demand is the ability to effectively counsel a company that is operating in a highly regulated industry, therefore, a regulatory attorney can transfer his/her skills across industries. The more regulated the industry, the easier it is for that attorney to transfer to less restrictive industries. For example, there is a sense that the pharmaceutical world is more regulated than the medical device industry, hence, we find that more pharmaceutical regulatory lawyers can switch over to medical device companies than the reverse. We have seen that lawyers who are well-versed in the FDA regulations can branch outside of life sciences into food, chemical and consumer products companies. With the ever-changing landscape of government regulations, the core skillset in demand is the ability to keep up-to-date on the pertinent regulations, synthesize the information to your business clients and steer the company in a way that ensures compliance. Similar to litigators that have to quickly become ‘experts’ in various industries depending on the facts of each case, regulatory attorneys have to be nimble and able to learn, digest and impart regulatory knowledge to a non-legal audience.
Regulatory lawyers must provide pragmatic business advice. No matter what industry you are working in, all companies want and need a regulatory lawyer who is business-minded and not just a "no-sayer." As a law firm attorney, it is acceptable to advise your clients about the pertinent regulations and to highlight which actions may not be in compliance. You can then give them options as to how to course-correct, but ultimately it is the company's decision and you do not live with the consequences. Once you go in-house and are functioning as your company's regulatory guru, you live, eat and breathe those decisions and consequences. In order to be effective in this role, the regulatory attorney has to be approachable, pragmatic and business-minded, while also being acutely aware of the applicable regulations. You need to be able to help navigate the business while maintaining regulatory compliance, and this cannot be achieved by merely saying "no, you can't do that." If you advise the business that an action they want to take (or are currently taking) is not in line with the regulations, you need to take it one step further and advise how to be in compliance while achieving the business objective. This is why being a regulatory lawyer is not for the faint of heart - it can often involve tactful conversations with the business and an ability to be practical and creative while maintaining the highest level of integrity.
Regulatory lawyers should branch out and gain broader skills. Put simply, broader is better. The core skill of being a regulatory expert is in demand, but we now see clients wanting more from their regulatory lawyers - they want additional skills such as securities, corporate, operational and/or commercial experience. One of our clients (small, public pharma company) was seeking a regulatory lawyer who could also pitch in on general corporate and securities work. We also had a client looking for an FDA/regulatory expert with broader commercial skills and a desire to really function as a generalist for the legal team. Even if you do not currently possess broader skills, the desire to learn more about your company’s operational/commercial functions is key. Raise your hand and step up to take on assignments outside of your regulatory specialty and start bringing additional value to your company. We have seen regulatory attorneys successfully transition into general counsels or leaders of specific business units by gaining additional skills along the way. At the heart of it, the regulatory background and experience is a fantastic training ground from which to grow and build your skillset.