When we published Risk Management: The Indispensable Profession, Volume 11 in our 18-volume 21st Century Legal Career Series (available from Amazon.com and the National Association for Law Placement, we noted that no fewer than 20 percent of risk management professionals were armed with a law degree and that the number of organizations that saw the advantages of either employing risk managers or contracting out for them as consultants was growing rapidly. That has not changed in the three years since the booklet came out. If anything, both phenomena have escalated.
Risk management is the indispensable profession, or as close to an indispensable function as any profession can get. It has become virtually essential to most large organizations and has been “trickling down” to occupy the same lofty position in many smaller one. In today’s environment, where the dangers confronting business success and even survival are vast and complicated, an organization that does not employ or engage risk managers ignores them at its own…risk.
Demand for Lawyers as Risk Managers
As indicated above, a substantial percentage of risk managers are attorneys. In fact, it is a frequent occurrence that organizations often send their risk managers to law school if they are hired without a law degree. Assessing and managing risk involves a great deal of law and understanding of law and regulation and their interaction. Legal training is thus a big plus. If you think about it, attorneys are trained to evaluate and mitigate risk on behalf of their clients, be they individuals or companies. In addition, attorneys, like risk managers, have to absorb a large amount of information about a wide variety of matters and be able to apply that knowledge.
The number of U.S. risk management jobs at the end of 2018 was 729,000, about 60 percent of the U.S. attorney population. Three years ago, there were only half as many risk managers as attorneys. However, risk management positions are growing at a rate of more than 50,000 per year and climbing, which far exceeds attorney job growth (static at best). The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expects this impressive growth rate to continue for a long time. BLS says that the risk management profession has been growing by 7 percent a year since 2014 and is predicted to continue that impressive rate of increase for at least the next five years. Compare that to the attorney growth rate of 0.6 percent a year for the same period. In other words, the risk management profession is expanding at almost 12 times the attorney growth rate.
Median risk manager salaries are not yet quite on a par with median attorney compensation, but are rapidly catching up as more and more employers realize the tangible and often measurable contributions risk managers make to their organizations.
Here there is no contest. Attorneys, as we have sadly observed now for many years, are often deemed expendable. In today’s environment, great uncertainty attends legal job continuity. That is not the case for risk managers. Their job requires them to know every nook and cranny of their organization, where all the bodies are buried and which closets contain the skeletons. That is what makes them well-nigh indispensable. There is no one in the organization quite as up-to-speed and essential as the risk manager(s).
As the profession matures, subspecialties begin to proliferate. Today, it is possible to find risk managers that focus on very specific matters, including:
- Specific Geographic Areas
- Job Hazards
- Elder Abuse
Risk management is now a global phenomenon. Opportunities are no longer limited to the United States.
The largest employers of risk managers include:
- Financial services
- Healthcare providers
- Commercial businesses
- Energy companies and utilities
- Engineering and construction
- Special purpose districts
- Colleges and universities
- Medical device firms
- Law firms
- Consulting firms
While a law degree is a strong headstart toward securing a risk management position,, you can position yourself even better if you supplement your JD with a risk management credential. This does not have to be a daunting exercise or exertion costing a great deal and taking a long time. There are many certificate and comparable programs available, a growing number of them that are specialized (e.g., healthcare, disaster risk reduction, financial industry, information technology, construction industry, etc.), and an increasing number of them are online, that enable you to quickly enhance your resume. Three of the best-received generic risk management certification programs are listed below:
- Associate in Risk Management (ARM)
- RIMS-Certified Risk Management Professional
- Associate PRM Certificate