Spotlight: Brian SojaSenior Vice President, Associate General Counsel, Regulatory Exams & Inquiries
Q1: Please tell us about your current role and how you got to where you are today.
A1: For the past four and a half years, I worked on the Regulatory Exams and Inquiries (REI) team within the Legal Department of LPL Financial, an independent broker-dealer that provides investment, technology, and compliance support, among other services, to over 21,000 financial advisors across the country, including advisors at approximately 1,100 bank and credit union-based investment programs. The REI team is responsible for handling and responding to all non-enforcement regulatory inquiries and examinations involving LPL and its affiliated advisors. Our team also coordinates with LPL’s bank and credit union partners in the context of bank regulatory exams and audits, an area in which I have been able to leverage my background in banking law to broaden and enhance the support we provide to these institutions. I was excited to recently be promoted to Senior Vice President in a role designed to provide further dedicated support to our institutional partners, as well as to our trust affiliate, Private Trust Company, a national trust bank regulated by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC).
Prior to joining LPL, I had the privilege of working for four years in the Litigation Group at MVA, where my work focused on conducting internal investigations and providing regulatory guidance to certain of MVA’s financial institution clients. After graduating from UNC School of Law in 2010, I began my legal career as an attorney in the Enforcement and Compliance Division of the OCC, a professional experience that has proved invaluable as I continue to build out my career.
Q2: What are three keys to your professional success?
A2: I don’t pretend to have all the answers when it comes to professional success, but there are certainly a few things I believe have helped me over the years. First, devote time toward thinking about the aspects of your background and your abilities that make you unique and how you can actively apply those features in your professional life. Initially, I didn’t think financial services law and regulation was the path for me, but my time at the OCC is an experience that has allowed me to stand out; it has truly been the professional gift that keeps on giving, and I decided to lean in. Second, look for ways to establish personal connections in your professional life, and don’t underestimate the power of showing gratitude or simply telling someone they’ve done a good job. In day-to-day communications, I always try to take a few minutes to establish a personal rapport, whether with an internal colleague or a regulator, and go out of my way to express appreciation, as appropriate. I’ve never experienced a downside to this. Finally, don’t take yourself too seriously. Legal and regulatory work is serious enough, and a little humor and positive energy can go a long way.
Q3: What recommendations do you have for managing outside counsel who are oftentimes more senior than the in-house lawyers tasked with managing them?
A3: Advice I often provide to lawyers and non-lawyers alike, and not exclusive to working with outside counsel, is to avoid letting yourself become limited or restricted by titles and seniority. There can be a tendency in professional life – and I have been guilty of this myself – to assume that the more senior person or people in the room have all the right answers, that certain opinions or ideas are “above your pay grade.” In practice, however, senior attorneys often rely on the more granular, detailed understanding of background facts held by junior colleagues and depend on them to be proactive in identifying weaknesses or blind spots. It benefits everyone to be proactive, confident that you have ideas of value and expertise to contribute. As a junior in-house attorney managing more senior outside counsel, you can and should rely on outside counsel’s experience and advice; however, always remember that you are the client and that you may have a better factual understanding of a given matter or a relevant viewpoint based on past experience. If you have questions about advice or a strategy proposed by outside counsel, ask the questions. If you aren’t comfortable with a certain piece of advice, raise you concerns and keep raising them until you are on board. It won’t benefit your client, the company, to stay silent and rely on advice simply because it comes from a more senior attorney.