Terence Oben is Fall 2017 BTLC Practitioner in Residence

Photograph: Terence Oben speaking at Washburn University School of Law about his career path and corporate compliance.Terence Oben, '11, was the Business and Transactional Law Center's Fall 2017 Practitioner in Residence. During his November 6-7 visit, Mr. Oben gave a Lunch and Learn presentation entitled, "Governance, Ethics and Compliance: The Future of the Legal Profession" and visited with students in several small-group settings.

Oben talked with students during the lunchtime presentation about his career trajectory, which led to building his corporate compliance practice in New York City. He explained that corporate compliance has become a field in which attorneys are being called upon by companies to help identify risks, mitigate those risks, and implement plans to ensure compliance with laws and regulations.

Before creating Oben Law, a New York practice with expertise in corporate compliance, Oben worked at many major banks, such as J.P. Morgan, BBVA and BNP Paribas. He decided to live and practice in New York because of the optimal growth opportunity it provided and described packing up his one suitcase and moving to New York from Kansas to pursue his dreams. Before obtaining employment with J.P. Morgan, Oben worked to add banking experience to his skill set, so he acquired a contract job that allowed him to gain the experience he desired and to learn investigative skills for compliance. Then, realizing large accounting consulting companies had created new departments for compliance that they were filling with attorneys, Oben left the banking world with his corporate compliance skills and J.D. to pursue independent work in the compliance field.

Oben explained to students that he had always been interested in going out on his own and approached work with the intention of gathering experience and skills he could later use in his own practice. He described how he managed the many transitions between jobs and cities by embracing the mentality that he was willing to do whatever it took to get where he wanted to be in life and to draw on his skills and advantages, such as researching and writing.

In addition to describing his career trajectory, Oben talked about current business conditions and the general changes affecting the business landscape today. He explained current business issues in the context of misconduct and how greed and self-interest have eroded confidence in business. Additionally, he reviewed what would aid the preservation of business integrity, such as transparent corporate governance, accountability, proactive compliance risk management, and the implementation of business ethics.

Oben also clarified to students that while appearing similar, corporate compliance and business ethics are in fact very different. He explained that corporate compliance deals with the policies and procedures of an organization that prevent and detect violations of laws and regulations, while business ethics deals more with how you influence human behavior in a business environment. He explained how companies often struggle with compliance because of the missing ethics component. For example, he asked the students, how does one dissent from a superior without fearing loss of employment?

Finally, Oben left students with the advice that titles, such as attorney, lawyer, etc. often limit our ability to think creatively about options. He encouraged students to always learn from feedback, to separate what they do from who they are, to make a difference with the limitless potential of a J.D. education, and to realize that results are the accumulations of past thoughts, feelings, beliefs, or behaviors. The Business and Transactional Law Center is very grateful to Oben for taking the time to return to campus and to share his experiences with the students here.

Photograph: Terence Oben speaking to students at Washburn Law.