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Red-hot practice areas for legal professionals

hottest legal practice areas for 2023

If the new year has you thinking about hot practice areas where you can grow your legal career, you’re not alone. A lot of legal professionals are seeking opportunities in 2023.

Let’s be honest: the world is a volatile place right now, and the economy is unpredictable at best. Even tech workers, who thought they picked a secure industry, are being laid off in droves.

What does all of this uncertainty mean for legal professionals?

Fortunately, there’s a bright outlook for law jobs. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that opportunities for lawyers will grow by roughly 10% between now and 2031.

While that’s great news for law firms, legal clients are concerned about ever-growing legal fees.

To combat these fears, firms are assigning many tasks traditionally performed by junior associates (like discovery and document review) to paralegals and other non-attorney staff. That strategy suggests that opportunities will continue to abound for all workers in the legal marketplace.

There are certain areas of the law that are expected to flourish at greater rates than others. In this article, we’ll explore those red-hot practice areas and discuss some practice intricacies for each.

Red-hot legal practice areas

If you’ve ever worked in a law firm with multiple practice areas, you know that workflow between departments can vary widely.

For example, corporate legal departments tend to flourish when the economy is strong. A strong economy means deals are getting done, mergers are happening, and IPOs are commonplace.

During those same times, however, business litigation departments tend to be slow. When there’s plenty of money to go around, people are less likely to sue.

Yet, when the economy falters, everything flip-flops. The corporate attorneys are slow and the trial attorneys are billing 20 hours a day.

The red-hot practice areas we’ll present to you today are predicted by industry experts to be less volatile than those traditional practices. In other words, if you pick one of these emerging practice areas, you’re probably going to experience steady demand regardless of the cultural and economic shifts happening around you.

Practice area #1: Cybersecurity law

Today, a large percentage of our lives are lived online. That includes both our personal lives and our careers.

In addition to the popularity of social media (70% of Americans are active in social media forums), many of our daily tasks are now handled online.

Just think about all the things we accomplish via the internet: banking, paying rent or mortgages, paying utilities, buying groceries and other household items, attending meetings, therapy appointments, correspondence, entertainment, and even purchasing cars and houses. This barely scratches the surface.

The most salient point is that every single online transaction requires a host of legal work, most of which falls under the rubric of cybersecurity law.

Legal professionals in this area need to be well versed in federal laws and regulations dealing with privacy and communications, among other things.

They must understand insurance issues as they relate to online security breaches.

Plus, they need to be able to negotiate and analyze contracts, handle technology-focused litigation, and know how to lead a response team if a major breach occurs.

Given the breadth of legal work that falls within the cybersecurity law landscape, this area of law is expected to provide thousands and thousands of jobs for lawyers, paralegals, and other legal professionals over the next few decades.

Cybersecurity law is also an evolving area as new legislation is introduced, landmark cases are decided, and technology evolves beyond the scope of previous precedents. If you’re looking for a practice area where you’ll have plenty of challenges to keep you interested, consider this one.

Practice area #2: Cannabis law

Regardless of anyone’s personal feelings about it, cannabis is a new, vast, and thriving industry in the United States.

Currently, 37 states have legalized medicinal cannabis use and 21 have fully legalized the plant for recreational use. Meanwhile, advocates and lobbyists from all other states are battling for further legalization, as well as for legalization on the national level.

What this means is that cannabis law presents vast opportunities for legal professionals.

This area requires an understanding of policy-making, rule formation, and statute drafting. Real estate laws are implicated. Federal preemption issues are ripe within this area. Contract and supply-chain issues come up all the time. Even the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution is a hotbed of legal activity when it comes to cannabis.

As with cybersecurity law, the sheer depth and width of legal issues implicated by cannabis legalization ensures that legal professionals who choose this practice area will be busy for many years to come.

Practice area #3: Health law

If you’ve been awake for the last decade, you know how controversial health care issues are in the U.S.

Consequently, health law policies shift constantly, and legal professionals are desperately needed to help negotiate this complex landscape.

Professionals who practice in this area will face a myriad of legal issues including state and federal regulatory schemes, antitrust accusations, billing fraud, patient privacy rights, labor representation, tax issues, malpractice cases, compliance analyses, and contract negotiation and drafting.

Once again, the vastness of issues handled by health law legal professionals (as well as the uncertainty of health policy in America) all but guarantees that practitioners in this area will be well-employed for decades.

Practice area #4: Intellectual property

Intellectual property has long been a lucrative practice area.

No matter what’s going on in the world, inventors are going to invent, writers are going to write, and creators are going to create. All of their works are worthy of legal protection — and many of them will be the subject of intricate legal battles.

Moreover, notwithstanding the tech layoffs noted at the outset of this article, tech innovation continues to surge.

Things like ownership of NFTs are hotbed legal issues that are going to change and develop in coming years. Other issues include ownership of drone images and the extent to which data or data systems can be protected as IP.

Some economists believe we are in the middle of a technological revolution. If that’s the case, then all of the new technologies bleeding into our society will need legal professionals to protect (and contest) them.

Our connected world also creates interesting challenges for intellectual property as legal professionals explore what rights creators have on a global scale.

Other hot practice areas for 2023 and beyond

Of course, the legal focuses listed in this article aren’t the only red-hot practice areas out there today.

Things like elder law are also pretty good bets in an aging population. You might choose to specialize in an area where you feel passionate, too. Practice areas like labor and employment, environmental law, and DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) are growing.

Whether you’re thinking of launching a legal career for the first time or looking for a change of pace, there’s a lot more to choosing a focus than simply picking a popular practice area.

Choose a specialty that gives you both the opportunity to find open positions and the chance to experience fulfillment in your career.

Looking for a change because you’ve lost that spark of passion in your current position? You’re not alone. Check out our free eBook to discover other strategies that help you fall back in love with your legal career.

How to fall back in love with your legal career [free download]

Author

  • Jennifer Anderson

    Jennifer Anderson practiced business litigation in California from 1999 to 2016. When she’s not writing from her floating cabin on the Columbia River, she can be found hiking or kayaking around the Pacific Northwest.

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