The ongoing uncertainty in the job market is frustrating job seekers everywhere, and law graduates are no exception. The past few years have seen mass layoffs for lawyers, bankruptcy of firms, foreclosure, increased litigation, and a general overabundance of law students in a tightening legal market.
Fortunately, the legal industry is on the rebound and the tides of legal practice seem to be changing. Just as in areas like technology and healthcare, the massive move towards constant connection and an older populace means specializing in specific areas can be hugely beneficial. The savvy job searcher or future lawyer would best gain experience in a growing legal area so that they can ride the economic waves, no matter how choppy they may be.
The following are practice areas that are gaining traction, prompting a demand for legal professionals with experience in these areas.
As demographics shift and as we face an aging population, elder law continues to be a growing area of practice. Those who wish to practice elder law will have to have an understanding of medical insurance schemes, as well as family law. Elder law is also an area of practice that intersects with other areas of law, and so a lawyer specializing in elder law must possess a knowledge of wills, trusts, and estates and even tax and insurance law. They will also need to keep abreast of federal and provincial/state regulations, especially with regards to retirement policies.
A people-oriented area, lawyers in this field often work closely with families.
When one thinks about a lawyer, a trial setting is usually what comes to mind. Arguably, litigation is what law is made of: companies and individuals “duking it out” in court to recoup their losses and to see justice served.
This has only been exacerbated by the economic recession. As long as there is conflict, there will be litigation (or, in recent decades, negotiation and mediation). Litigation lawyers will be called up to represent clients in commercial litigation, insurance defense, class actions, labor and employment, personal injury lawsuits and regulatory actions.
In high demand are litigators with three or more years of experience. This is across all areas of practice. Firms are looking a lawyer who can hit the ground running without a lot of guidance and direction.
In recent decades, there have been many advances in sustainable energy and increasing awareness of climate change, greenhouse gases, pollution and other environmental issues. The oil and gas industry has also seen an upswing in recent years.
Corporations want to know how to limit their liability with respect to the environment and how to avoid litigation. Non-profit environmental organizations want to prosecute erring corporations. That’s where the environmental lawyer steps in.
Lawyers in this area advise clients on green initiatives and sustainability issues, and will need to be well versed in commercial contracts, regulations and federal and provincial statutes. Environmental lawyers typically have a corporate law background, but knowledge of Aboriginal law may prove helpful. First Nations are often a stakeholder in environmental disputes and the “duty to consult” may be engaged.
Despite the recovering economy, many companies have had to file for bankruptcy. Bankruptcy law is one of the fastest growing practice areas in the legal industry today.
Because of unprecedented levels of unemployment, rising medical costs and home foreclosures, many people are finding that they cannot make ends meet and thus have to file for bankruptcy, employing the expertise of a legal professional to help them with this action.
Labour And Employment Law
As long as there are unions and as long as people have jobs, there will be conflict. Thus a lawyer will have to be employed to diffuse such conflict. Besides collective bargaining and employment contracts, lawyers in this area will be increasingly called upon to litigate and mitigate disputes between employees and employers, as unemployed employees file claims and organizations file law suits.
This field may also see a growing need for in-house lawyers.
Real Estate Law
With the recession, more and more homeowners struggled to keep their homes and to keep up with mortgage payments. Lawyers suffered from the lack of work in real estate law. However, the rising amount of foreclosures created and still creates job opportunities for lawyers. Lawyers are needed to find lost foreclosed loans.
Lawyers in this area of law can expect to hone their civil litigation skills and deepen their understanding of the civil code. There is an increasing need for lawyers who can help protect and defend the rights of lenders, investors, entrepreneurs, homebuyers, homesellers. and guide them through the foreclosure process.
Intellectual Property Law
As more and more people create, and with the advent of new developments in the natural sciences and technological advances, particularly in information technology, lawyers will be employed to legally protect the property and product of one’s intellect, as well as protect the creator’s ownership rights.
Intellectual property (or patent) lawyers are not just hired by artists and scientists – they are hired by businesses, authors, inventors, musicians and other owners of creative works. Because work in this field can transcend international borders, intellectual property lawyers who can speak multiple languages are also in demand. As long as invention and innovation exist, the field of intellectual property will remain fertile ground and a stable playing field for lawyers.
Closely related to intellectual property law is entertainment law, which is also a continually growing (and sometimes lucrative — think sports law) field. The practice of entertainment law entails representing a client or clients (athletes, artists, authors and the like) in contract negotiations – whether for a production, or a performance or a book deal.
Thus, like many other areas of practice, this field of law draws upon practice areas such as intellectual property and copyright law, labour and employment law, contracts, real estate law and communications law. Many lawyers who pursue entertainment law are often artists and performers themselves.
Electronic discovery is yet another growing field of practice. We live, as it has often been said, in the “information age.” Much of this information, especially when it comes to litigation, is stored and much be searched for electronically. Lawyers who litigate and who do discoveries must know how to wade through the information to find what is relevant and needed for their case or trial.
This area of practice is especially attractive to lawyers who do not want a traditional practice. but rather would like to be hired per service or to provide services on a limited scope basis (for example, be hired to do e-discoveries only)
Opportunities abound for legal professionals in accidents and benefits and personal injury and medical malpractice law. Many law firms have a health law practice group, with lawyers acting for pharmaceutical companies, biotechnology companies, and other corporations.