Law Life: What are the hot practice areas?

By Reni Gertner
The Daily Record Newswire

Even though lawyer layoffs have continued, a number of practice areas are thriving — and generating more work opportunities for attorneys.

“There is some nice momentum within the legal community,” said Charles Volkert, Executive Director at Robert Half Legal, a national legal staffing agency. “I believe legal organizations will continue to make strategic hires, looking at ways to expand their ... teams to meet client demands.”

Volkert, who is based in Miami, added that even if some firms aren’t seeking full-time attorneys, many are hiring temporary and project-based attorneys.

Here’s a look at the practice areas likely to be the hottest in the year to come:

• Consumer bankruptcy and foreclosures

Given the economic climate and recent foreclosure scandal, bankruptcy and foreclosure work continues to grow.

“You’re still going to see more consumer bankruptcy filings because of the overall economic picture,” said Robert Denney, a strategic and marketing consultant for lawyers. Denney, based in Wayne, Pa., publishes a report entitled “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession” twice a year.

Also, said Volkert, “foreclosure issues have generated a tremendous amount of work,” especially for smaller firms.

But Denney said that the amount of Chapter 11 work has been decreasing, noting that most companies that were forced to file due to the economic downturn have already done so.

• Health care

With the new federal reform law in the process of being implemented, health care law is hotter than ever.

“Doctors, hospitals and long-term care facilities are trying to [evaluate the] ramifications of ‘Obamacare,’” said Denney.

This means an increased demand for “any attorneys with health-care-related backgrounds to advise corporate clients about how to handle the reform,” said Volkert.

• Employment

Employment lawyers continue to be in demand in all arenas, said Volkert.

“Employment is going to stay busy,” said Denney. “Whenever you have reduced employment and layoffs - and you have companies reducing their benefits — it will continue to generate work for lawyers.”

In the employment context, attorneys are also being asked to advise companies on social media and confidentiality issues, Denney added.

• Immigration

“Immigration is very hot and going to get hotter,” Denney said.
Issues range from helping people obtaining visas to come to the U.S. to employment questions related to undocumented workers, he said.

• Small business

An increasing number of general practice attorneys are advising start-up companies on everything from financing to regulations to employment matters, said Denney.

“Some sole practitioners are focusing on this as one of the [main areas] of their practice,” he said.

• Trusts and estates

While any practice area related to the estate tax has been in a “holding pattern,” Denney predicted that once Congress moves forward on the future of the estate tax, “trusts and estates and elder law” will get hotter.

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