Mike Hammell*

Looking ahead to 2018 lawyers can take advantage of some practice areas that offer potential for profitability and growth. And for young lawyers seeking jobs in a crowded law job market, there are some areas that they can focus upon that will offer great opportunity for decent employment in decent firms.

So where are the growth areas for law firms in the coming year?

But first lets consider the cyclical nature of the law. Following the GFC transactional and property lawyers were struggling, layoffs ensued and young law student seeking work in those areas were lucky to get their emails read.

But how things change. Now there is demand, particularly in the US legal market but also in the UK, Australia, Asia and elsewhere for lawyers specialising in these areas.

There is growing demand for greater specialisation in a range of areas from mergers and acquisitions, to transactional and regulatory work.

According to a Robert Half Legal survey, 60 per cent of lawyers said their organizations have experienced at least some difficulty in finding skilled legal talent – so that must mean opportunity, right?

Being flexible is also important, a point noted in a recent ABA Journal interview with legal recruiter Valerie Fontaine, who noted –

if you are doing real-estate finance deals, you also want to make sure you know how to do restructuring and insolvency. You want to know how to do the other side because, like I said at the beginning of the program, practice is cyclical because the economy is cyclical.

1  Intellectual Property law

The growth in technology is ubiquitous and IP issues abound. Those with a knowledge of anything in that broad area touching every part of our lives from entertainment and sport to healthcare and education can look toward major opportunities emerging.

New platforms and delivery systems are emerging that is changing the way people operate, but it all opens up the key intersection between the law and technology.

2  Healthcare

Across the Western World the baby-boomers are going to increasingly require healthcare services and healthcare and regulatory services related to them are going to be extremely important and points of hot growth.

In the US, there’s still going to be lots of disagreement, litigation and disputes over the Affordable Care Act or its successor.

Regulatory schemes that go into making that workable. And so, healthcare, regulatory, and transactional lawyers are going to be hot.

3  Elder Law

As populations increase and we live longer, so too does the requirement for elder law.  In the US, for instance, there is projected growth of those over 65 years of age to reach more than 20 per cent of the population by 2020.  Similar growth in the older population is predicted in the UK, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.

Elder Law will play an ever more critical role in advocating and protecting the rights and wellbeing of older adults, many of whom have complicated medical issues. This area of law may also interact with Healthcare and Family Law with key legal issues such  as medical care, insurance, wills, end of life, trusts, guardianship and a range of other issues.

4  Environmental Law

Climate change issues, environmental concerns and the need to increase regulation in many areas of activity in many countries, has opened the door to significant legal work.

The growing interest in sustainability and increase in environmental regulation has opened doors in this practice area. Career opportunities may lie in helping corporations understanding their environmental liability, at an NGO advising litigation against malicious companies, or drafting legislation on energy policy. Work for energy law yers will likely increase as oil and gas industries grow and externalities like climate change and greenhouse gases create greater environmental issues. Advanced knowledge of regulations, commercial contracts, and relevant statutes is essential in this specialty.

5  Blockchain

Where would we be in 2018 without the Blockchain – one of the 2017 highlight topics exemplified by the overriding obsession with Bitcoin, which is based on this increasingly significant area of legal work.

LawFuel wrote recently about Blockchain’s growth in the legal field with its application to contractual and other work almost unbounded and growing daily.  The lawyers who can seize the upper, Blockchain ground will find themselves in an increasingly unassailable position as corporates, individuals, NGOs and even governments will often struggle to see how the digital platform actually works and its impact upon their business.

6 Labor and Employment

Ongoing legal issues across multiple jurisdiction in employment/labor law see a continued demand for work in this often highly complex area.

Many corporations are growing their in-house labor force expertise while others become increasingly dependent on outside law firms. This specialization ranges across a variety of areas ranging from collective bargaining to discrimination, benefits and compensation and more.

2018’s opportunities for law firms is significant, but the fields – such as the Blockchain – will twist some heads to ensure the opportunities are also met efficiently and profitably.

Author – 

Mike Hammell writes about law issues for a variety of legal publications, law firms and others.



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