Former student leader Frank Ewing found his niche in a changing legal profession

"Being a lawyer nowadays is less about the practice of law and more about the ability to read, write, think, speak, and analyze."

Among its many lessons, law school teaches you to think on your feet – even when there’s an earthquake shaking the ground you’re standing on.

That’s a reality for today’s law students, who face a rapidly changing legal job market. For them, the old realities – assured entry into a solid law firm, a comfortable living from then on – don’t necessarily apply.

For some, though, that earthquake is opening up amazing new opportunities. Count Frank Ewing ’12 among them.

Ewing is a Partner and Assistant General Counsel with Gabriel Partners, a Cleveland-based advisory firm that guides financial institutions on how to comply with federal regulations, particularly those intended to fight money laundering under the Bank Secrecy Act. He runs the firm’s risk and compliance practice, which he says caters primarily to financial institutions with $500 million to $250 billion in assets. He’s also the firm’s go-to expert on anti-money laundering issues and heads its operations.

He’s putting his UB School of Law degree to good use in a non-traditional field – and loving it.

“We believe you can provide highly skilled, smart people to help clients out with their regulatory challenges and you don’t have to charge big-city lawyer rates,” Ewing says. “Being a lawyer nowadays is less about the practice of law and more about the ability to read, write, think, speak, and analyze. When we hire people with a J.D., we know they’ll come in and right away, understand the regulations, and immediately add value to our clients.”

It’s a niche practice that is growing rapidly. Since he joined Gabriel Partners in 2013, Ewing says, the firm has grown from about 40 full-time employees to more than 240. They’ve just opened a second office, in Phoenix.

About one-third of those employees have a law degree, Ewing says, including some the firm has hired from University at Buffalo School of Law; the rest typically come from financial institutions and careers that require investigative skills, such as military intelligence and tax auditing. Gabriel puts them all through a rigorous training program.

“The regulatory governance, risk and compliance space is a fantastic arena for young law graduates to use the skills that they’ve gained in a new environment,” he says. “And virtually every client we deal with seems to have a J.D. The regulators, the bankers – they’re all attorneys.”

It’s part of his portfolio to grow the business, and Ewing sees that as a complement to his legal work. “They aren’t mutually exclusive,” he says. “You can be both a great lawyer and a great business person. If you’re doing it correctly, they should feed off each other.”

Before he enrolled at UB School of Law, Ewing worked in banking and financial crime regulation as well, including at Gabriel Partners, so his current position brings him full circle. “I went to law school to expand my career prospects,” he says, “and I loved it. It was a fantastic experience.”

And he threw himself into the experience, including, competing on trial teams and moot court, and ending up as a two-time president of the Student Bar Association. “The more you put in, the more you’re going to get out of it,” he says. “I have the fondest memories of the law school. It was the people, the professors – it truly felt like a community the whole time I was involved. And our alumni network is fantastic. “I wouldn’t trade those three years for anything.”