While some areas of the law are on the decline, experts point out that others are expanding rapidly. The National Jurist met with these experts and found that the fastest growing fields currently are in bankruptcy and foreclosure. Executive director of Robert Half Legal, Charles Volkert, shares that law firms specializing in these areas are growing at a steady clip. Other fields worth considering include international law, tax law, environmental law and intellectual property law.
With businesses and individuals filing for bankruptcy every year, the high demand in this field will not fade anytime soon. People need help deciding if a Chapter 13 or 7 is the right choice for them, and they need assistance with the associated paperwork and filings. Bankruptcy, especially business bankruptcy, is a complex area of law, so complex that there are specialized bankruptcy courts that deal solely with bankruptcy cases. As the recent Kodak bankruptcy showed, specialists in this area are going to remain in high demand as corporations continue to deal with the fall out from the 2008 crash and the growing pressures of pension obligations and global competition.
Foreclosure and personal bankruptcy are closely linked, and many people deal with them simultaneously. However, they aren’t always linked – filling for bankruptcy stays foreclosure proceedings, and many people manage to navigate the waters of potential foreclosure without going through bankruptcy. The laws in this practice area are also changing rapidly as a result of the real estate bubble and subsequent crash, and there are many new state and federal laws available to help homeowners who are facing foreclosure. This field is likely to continue growing as the laws continue changing, people continue struggling to pay their bills and foreclosure levels remain high.
We are part of a global economy, and the globalization of politics and trade will only continue to grow. Areas that are heavily involved in international trade or diplomacy like New York, Tokyo and Washington D.C. are all prime areas that will see a growing demand for international lawyers to help settle disputes and resolve issues. International lawyers can be anything from experts in international organization regulations such as the World Trade Organization and financial programs offered by the International Monetary Fund, while others work with governments for state-provided funding, while still others work on issues such as international human rights and human trafficking.
Long criticized for not keeping up with technology, environmental policy and lawyers are beginning to see more innovation in their field. As environmental awareness has grown, enforcement has drawn more and more support and environmental lawyers are becoming seen less as do-good tree huggers and more as a serious necessity for corporations facing environmental challenges. In fact, environmental policy and law is changing the world of public management on an ever-growing basis. From designing wastewater collection to land use planning to disaster response such as the recent BP oil spill, environmental law is becoming one of the most rapidly growing law fields today.
The tax code changes regularly, and it only becomes more complicated. Regardless of whether there are Democrats or Republicans in office, the tax code is always part of the public discourse. This is a specialized area that leaves most ordinary citizens and even lawyers feeling overwhelmed and confused. Businesses in particular will need specialists in tax law to help them remain in good legal standing, fight to have unique tax deductions accepted and help them deal with audits or other problems with the IRS. Tax law gets increasingly complicated as businesses become more and more global, with revenues and operations spanning many different tax jurisdictions.
Intellectual Property Law
As the recent mega-litigation between Apple and Samsung demonstrated, intellectual property lawyers are at the forefront of some of today’s major legal battles. With the ability to download song and movies easily, the need for creative minds to protect themselves has grown. The explosion of patent litigation and the hoarding of patent portfolios by large incumbent tech companies is also leading to greatly increased demand for patent litigators. Further, as new technology is developed the need for patent prosecutors grows as firms seek to protect their innovations. This all means one thing: intellectual property lawyers will be in increasingly high demand.
While the market for lawyers in some areas is saturated, there are several rapidly growing practice areas. While some of them have been lucrative in the past and will continue to expand, others are relatively new on the scene. People have been filing bankruptcy for decades, but the need for international lawyers is relatively new. However, you can expect all of these fields to continue growing and remain popular in coming years.