When attorneys contemplate careers in criminal justice, their thoughts naturally gravitate to positions as prosecutors or defense attorneys, period. But that hardly does justice to the field, or to the many job possibilities in this field. Criminal justice jobs and careers today range far beyond the confines of putting away the bad guys or keeping the accused on the streets.
We are constantly exposed to the incessant drumbeat that “the only things we can count on are death and taxes,” or one of the many variations of that platitude. However, what has been omitted is crime. Regardless of civilization’s presumed advance toward the Edenesque mountaintop where we will all live in blessed peace and harmony, crime, too, will always be with us. And that means opportunity and job security for lawyers.
The Gift That Keeps on Giving
I am going to focus in this blog on fraud because it exists in virtually every arena in which humans operate, and it involves immense amounts of money. And fraud breeds anti-fraud efforts. Careers either fighting fraud or defending alleged defrauders are legal career opportunities that just keep expanding. New anti-fraud initiatives proliferate like bunnies. Everywhere you look, there is a new one. And they emerge from multiple places: the federal government, the states, the insurance industry, and other organizations.
The latest is the U.S. Department of Justice’s Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group, hastily cobbled together in the face of escalating gas prices at the pump with the ostensible purpose of going after price manipulators. Hopefully, that will include China and India, who are guilty of “manipulation” by virtue of their tremendous increased demand for oil to lubricate their rapidly growing economies.
Despite the exponential expansion of anti-fraud efforts and activities, fraud just keeps on keeping on. There almost appears to be a direct correlation between the number of attorneys, investigators, auditors and other professionals enlisted to identify and prosecute fraud and the number of defrauders and the economic results of their fraudulent activities.
Federal Anti-Fraud Efforts
The U.S. government now has no fewer than 12 task forces, teams and working groups devoted to fraud:
- Corporate Fraud Task Force
- Hurricane Katrina Fraud Task Force
- Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team
- Medicare Fraud Strike Force
- Cyber Crime Task Force
- Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force
- Mortgage Fraud Task Force
- National Procurement Fraud Task Force
- Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces
- Consumer Fraud Task Force
- Oil and Gas Price Fraud Working Group
- Washington Metropolitan Major Medical Fraud Task Force
And that is only the beginning. Overlaying these fraud task forces are the federal government’s 73 Inspector General offices (half of which have their own general counsel’s office), as well as the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, Ethics offices and officers in numerous federal agencies, the Defense Contract Audit Agency, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, and a bevy of other agencies with anti-fraud responsibilities. Together, they provide legal and law-related job opportunities for attorneys by the hundreds.
State Fraud Fighters
The states are no slouches in the fraud area, either. There are similar state anti-fraud task forces in many states. Every state has a Medicaid Fraud Bureau and many state Attorney General offices and local prosecutor offices have launched task forces and related efforts to combat insurance fraud. Examples of additional state anti-fraud initiatives include the following:
- California Mortgage Fraud Task Force
- Florida CyberFraud Task Force
- Illinois Mortgage Fraud Task Force
- Maryland Joint Enforcement Task Force on Workplace Fraud
- Nevada Auto Theft and Insurance Fraud Task Force
- Tennessee TennCare Provider Fraud Task Force
- Washington Financial Fraud and Identity Theft Task Forces
Private Sector Anti-Fraud Efforts
Insurance companies are establishing and expanding in-house anti-fraud entities. Virtually all of the Fortune 1000 corporations have an Ethics Office, thanks to legislative and regulatory compliance and enforcement pressures from Washington, led by the U.S. Sentencing Commission and its Organizational Sentencing Guidelines. Colleges and universities are also part of the ethics mix, as are trade and professional organizations, the larger of which have independent ethics offices staffed by attorneys who advise members on ethics matters.
Professional licensing organizations increasingly focus on ethics matters. State bars have been in the forefront of this movement for decades, and are staffed with ethics officers, bar counsel and client protection fund attorneys. Not to be outdone, other professional regulators, such as medical licensing agencies, are following the attorney model.
Finally, the prolific escalation of international counterfeiting and piracy of products, patents, trademarks and copyrights – manifested by knock-offs – has given rise to laws like the Prioritizing Resources and Organization for Intellectual Property Act of 2008 (PRO-IP Act) that enhance career opportunities for attorneys interested in an anti-fraud practice.
Elaborating on the “Hermann’s Corollary” Effect
My corollary to Newton’s Third Law of Motion reads like this: “For every government action, there is an (at least) equal private sector reaction.”
The step-up in government investigations and prosecutions, as well as the efforts of private anti-fraud organizations, is also creating job opportunities on the “dark side,” defending individuals and organizations accused of fraud. These attorneys advise and defend individuals, companies, corporate executives and foreign governments and handle complex parallel criminal and civil litigations and internal corporate investigations, particularly in the areas of healthcare fraud, financial fraud, antitrust, and securities enforcement.
The Fraud Future
As long as greed and its attendant opportunities govern human behavior, there will be Bernie Madoffs, Ponzi schemes, insider trading, tax evasion, baits-and-switches, scams, you name it.
Massive federal programs like Medicare and Medicaid, grappling with more than a billion claims and doling out billions of dollars each year, are a huge temptation for defrauders.
Suspicious Activity Reporting (“SAR”) by financial services companies (defined so expansively that they include casinos) to the government are at historically high levels and are increasing by double-digit percentages every year. They show increases in every possible kind of financial fraud and prompt investigating agencies to increase the number of investigations they undertake, which in turn generates more prosecutions.
It is difficult to see that a young attorney interested in either combatting fraud or white collar defense work and who positions himself or herself for such a career will ever encounter a dearth of legal job opportunities.
The Rich Array of Job Possibilities
Since I began logging law-related job titles two decades ago, the number that fit under the Criminal Justice category have grown by several orders of magnitude. Listed below are the ones most frequently occupied by attorneys:
- Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Inspector
- Asset Forfeiture Specialist
- Bank Fraud Investigator
- Border Patrol Agent
- Child Abuse Investigator
- Child Support Enforcement Case Analyst
- Civil Penalties Officer
- Civilian Complaint Review Board Officer
- Compliance Support Inspector
- Computer Crime and Security Specialist
- Computer Fraud Investigator
- Consumer Safety Inspector
- Crime Analyst
- Crime Prevention Coordinator
- Criminal Investigator
- Criminal Justice Administrator/Analyst
- Criminal Research Specialist
- Customs Inspector
- Deputy Inspector General for Investigations
- DEA Special Agent
- Domestic Investigator
- Drug Investigator
- Economic Crimes Investigator
- Employment Investigator
- Enforcement Analyst
- Enforcement Professional
- FBI Special Agent
- Federal Trade Investigator
- Financial Enforcement Specialist
- Fines, Penalties and Forfeiture Specialist
- Foreign Service Narcotics Control Officer
- Forensic Investigator
- Fraud/White Collar Crime Investigator
- Fugitive Witness Investigations Specialist
- Game Law Enforcement Officer
- General Investigator/Inspector
- Hidden Assets Investigator
- Immigration Inspector
- Inspector General
- Inspector Gen, Complaints Analysis Spec.
- Intellectual Property Enforcement Coordinator
- Intellectual Property Loss Investigator
- Internal Affairs Director
- Investigations Review Specialist
- Law Enforcement Coordination Manager
- Law Enforcement Specialist
- Missing Persons Investigator
- Municipal Code Enforcement Officer
- Postal Inspector
- Private Investigator
- Revenue Officer/Agent
- Securities Fraud Examiner
- Seized Property Specialist
- Software Piracy & Licensing Abuse Investigator
- Special Agent (Wildlife)
- Treasury Enforcement Agent
- Victim Compensation Officer
- Victim-Offender Mediator
- Victim Services Manager
- Welfare Investigator
- White Collar Prison Counselor
Getting One of These Jobs
While a law degree is always a strong platform for anyone vying for a law-related position in Criminal Justice, it never hurts to add to that valuable credential with something more specialized. There is no shortage of organizations—academic and otherwise—that offer inexpensive supplemental credentials that can be earned in short order and that can give you some “separation” from your competitors. The following selected online programs qualify:
- National Board of Trial Advocacy – Criminal Trial Certificate
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners – Certified Fraud Examiner
- Post University Online – Criminal Justice Certificate in Homeland Security
- Utica College – Financial Crimes Investigator Certificate
- Association of Certified Anti-Money Laundering Specialists – Anti-Money Laundering Specialist Certificate (online preparation followed by testing at an onsite testing center)
- California State University at Fullerton – Certificate in Healthcare Fraud and Abuse in the Application of Medical Coding
Next: What Else Is Out There? Legal Career Alternatives, Part IX – Energy and Natural Resources