Based on our daily dealings with law firms around the country, large and small, we have put together our prediction of busy and not so busy practice areas for early 2016.
We believe security and privacy law (including cybersecurity), and healthcare law will continue to be hot regardless of what the economy does. Never before have security breaches posed or threatened such disastrous results to financial institutions, corporations and law firms. The Affordable Care Act will continue to have an impact on employer-sponsored health care plans, and the changing landscape of health care regulation requires continued up to the minute legal expertise and demand for guidance.
As long as the economy continues to do well, corporate, M&A, and commercial real estate will continue be hot. Companies are less afraid in the current economy to make investments and do deals, resulting in ubiquitous construction cranes on city skylines, reappearing after their recession-based disappearance. There is a huge shortage of commercial real estate associates at present because nobody needed them 5-6 years ago, resulting in a gap in mid-level and senior associate expertise.
We are also seeing an uptick in regulatory and white-collar defense practices, which are direct results of the current administration’s focus. Young Mayden’s Ken Young practiced labor and employment law on the management side with large firms for thirty years before going into legal search and consulting, and always found it interesting that while many management-side labor lawyers are conservative Republicans, their firms fare much better financially when Democrats are in office. OSHA, EEOC, NLRB, OFCCP, etc. all tend to be more fully staffed and aggressive when there is a Democrat in the White House. Same with the enforcement of laws like the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Act and Antitrust enforcement.
An area that seems relatively steady is patent prosecution/trademarks, and patent litigation seems to be picking up after a slight drop off in mid 2015.
Areas that are currently cold are bankruptcy, commercial litigation (fewer bet-the-company cases as more companies are mediating and settling) and environmental, although the western part of the country appears to be more active than the east on the environmental front.
The only forecast we can make with certainly is that all the practice area predictions we make here, even if borne out, don’t predict the practice area landscape later in 2016 and beyond that. Unlike the song New York! New York! from On the Town, where “the Bronx is up, but the Battery’s down” – and always will be – tune in late 2016 to see how circumstances that are beyond prediction can well result in a brand new version of “Hot Practice Areas”.