The 5 hottest practice areas for 2013

Pat Murphy, The Daily Record Newswire

While a stagnant economy means a tough job market for many lawyers, legal staffing experts predict that attorneys with specialized skills will continue to find themselves in high demand in 2013.

It’s a “specialist economy” for the legal profession, according to Charles Volkert, executive director at staffing agency Robert Half Legal.

“Even though there are significant numbers of attorneys out of work and job growth has been a little lackluster, many firms and corporate legal departments are hiring aggressively in the demand practice areas such as health care and intellectual property,” says Volkert, who is based in Miami.

Robert Denney of Robert Denney Associates agrees that specialization will be the key to employment prospects for lawyers in 2013. However, the Wayne, Pa., management and marketing consultant cautions that his firm has seen a “flattening out” of hiring by the big firms in recent months. He predicts that most of the hiring activity in 2013 will be by small boutique and mid-sized firms.

“We see moderately strong employment in mid-sized firms and specialty boutiques like intellectual property and employment firms,” Denney says.
Here’s a look at the practice areas expected to be in the greatest demand in the coming year:

1) Health care

A recent Robert Half survey of legal employers indicates that health care is expected to see the highest degree of growth moving into next year, according to Volkert.
Denney agrees that lawyers with expertise in health care will be in good shape in 2013.
“With the implementation of Obamacare and related countersuits, health is still hot,” he says.

2) Intellectual property
“There have been more infringement filings in the last two years than ever before and we see this continuing,” Denney says. “I’d call that a red-hot area.”
A patent lawyer who can speak multiple languages just might be able to write his or her own check.
Volkert points out that because many companies deal with intellectual property matters outside of the U.S., it has increased the demand for foreign language reviewers.

3) Labor and employment

Denney also calls labor and employment a “red-hot” practice area for 2013, saying lawyers can thank an “aggressive” National Labor Relations Board for the extra work.
He specifies one niche area certain to generate jobs in the coming year: social-media policies.
“The NLRB is really going after employers — and law firms, too — over social-media policies,” Denney says.

4) Banking
Lawyers will continue to have plenty of work to do thanks to the Dodd-Frank Act and the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Denney says.
“Only a portion of the laws that have come out of Dodd-Frank have been implemented, so there’s still a long way to go,” he says.

5) Litigation
Litigators with three or more years of experience will continue to be in high demand across all areas of practice, according to Volkert.
“We haven’t seen any slowdown in hiring across the areas of litigation, whether that’s insurance defense or labor and employment,” he says. “Firms are looking for job candidates who can walk into a case, roll up their sleeves, and really work that case without a lot of direction.”