2018 was a good year for the legal profession. According to a Citi Private Bank Law Firm Group report, industry-wide revenue for the first six months was up an impressive 5.5 percent.
While the revenue surge was, as usual, primarily among the AM Law 100, a surprising number of lower-tier, small and mid-sized firms also reported strong revenue growth, in some cases exceeding that of the white-shoe establishments.
Revenue growth wasn’t attributable so much to billable hours or rate increases as it was to more firms expanding into developing practice areas. One major area is Brexit — someone has to untie the Gordian Knot of existing agreements and draft new ones to ensure a smooth transition.
Here at home, the current administration has quietly increased government oversight of Big-pharma and life sciences companies. Obtaining regulatory approval for new drugs and products is a long and arduous process fraught with delays and the potential for massive liabilities. As a result, more companies are increasingly seeking skilled legal guidance, particularly with the issues of pricing and labeling.
According to some experts, 2019 is shaping up to be a mixed bag with some citing an over-heated economy and the potential for a recession. Still, with challenges come opportunities and the new year promises even more prospects for skilled legal professionals to strut-their-stuff, especially if they’re willing to expand into new practice areas.
Prognosticating is a difficult activity. Perhaps Yankee Hall-of-Famer, Yogi Berra said it best, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” While no one knows for sure what 2019 will bring, Robert Half Legal, the premier provider of legal staffing and consulting solutions for law firms and corporate legal departments, does anticipate increased demand in a number of practice areas. Legal pros with experience in these areas can expect to see competitive salaries and multiple job offers.
In no particular order, 2019’s high-demand practice areas include:
Assuming the economy remains strong, we can expect to see an increase in private equity (PE) deals. Global PE deals for 2018 totaled almost $826 billion. According to Crunchbase News, this amount was almost 56 percent higher than 2017 and experts expect 2019 to be even higher.
PE firms have trillions of dollars under management and while these deals are primarily for the big investors, every deal requires successfully handling a host of complex challenges running the gamut from taxes, transactions, finance, and anti-trust issues. Attorneys with experience in these areas will find ample opportunity to shine.
If you believe the economy will tank in 2019, civil litigation may be the area for you. Sadly, during economic downturns, individuals and companies often use litigation to recoup losses, or even as a method to avoid paying money owed. It’s a sign of our litigious nature that the number of these suits filed in federal and state courts is increasing.
Attorneys skilled in the practice areas of complex civil and commercial litigation, labor and employment law, insurance defense, personal injury, and class action lawsuits will find a bevy of willing clients.
Commonly known as “bet-the-farm” litigation, these actions can cripple or destroy a company, ruin investors and expose officers and directors to massive liability. These suits involve large, extremely complicated matters and require legal teams skilled in the nuances of ownership and corporate issues, patents and copyrights, litigation, discovery and witness preparation.
With their very existence at stake, it’s not a wonder that companies involved in these suits willingly crack open their checkbooks for skilled representation.
The International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP), located in Portsmouth, N.H., is the world’s largest association of privacy practitioners. With more than 38,000 members in 107 countries, their annual summits bring together almost 4,000 attendees to discuss current and future issues in the field of privacy.
While a number of things like technological innovation and increased social awareness are helping drive the demand for privacy practitioners the number one spur is the European Union’s sweeping General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The GDPR took effect last May and among its many requirements is the mandate that “any organization that processes or stores large amounts of personal data, whether for employees or individuals outside the organization or both” must have a data protection officer (DPO). The GDPR also applies to any non-EU organizations located in foreign countries that handle data of EU citizens.
According to GDPR Article 37, data protection officers must have “expert knowledge of data protection law and practices.”
Demand for DPOs inside the EU is sky-high. The IAPP reports the number of their members working within the EU has increased from approximately 4,000 in 2017 to more than 10,000 last year.
In 2018, the American Bar Association (ABA) approved a resolution on the IAPP’s Privacy Law Specialist accreditation, for a five-year term. Currently, more than half the U.S. states recognize ABA’s accreditation of law specialty certifications. This means that attorneys in the U.S. can now become credentialed privacy-law specialists through IAPP.
IAPP estimates there are currently 75,000 openings worldwide for DPOs. As nations and markets become ever more connected, this practice area is, as President Trump would say, going to be “Yuge!”
Each day, more than 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created and more than half of web searches are done on mobile devices. Data is “money” and because it is valuable, there is no shortage of bad guys looking to steal it.
Every organization needs to protect their data from hackers and, if hacked, mitigate the damage. Doing so requires more than a few impressive keyboard jockeys on staff. It also requires some sharp legal minds.
When practicing cybersecurity law, there are a number of laws to be aware of and in compliance with. A short list of the main ones includes The Wiretap Act, the Stored Communications Act, the Pen Register statute, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, the Privacy Act, and the Espionage Act.
Not surprisingly, the number of laws is increasing. Regulatory agencies are hard at work daily creating new ones and that is just on the federal level, there are also a host of individual state and foreign laws waiting to trip up unsuspecting organizations.
This area is relatively new, and firms are playing catch-up building their practices and looking to hire skilled attorneys who understand the issues and how to navigate this rapidly developing field.
Especially hot right now is the demand for experienced lateral hires and it’s not just in law firms. There is an ever-growing demand for practitioners within public and private organizations of all sizes.
2019 is full of exciting opportunities for attorneys willing to work hard and learn about new practice areas. As with any successful practice, there will be no shortage of documents to write, edit and share between team members, clients, and interested parties.
More than ever, firms and individual attorneys need to stay on top of assigning tasks, connecting calendars and efficiently managing a set of documents. The best and most cost-efficient tool is with leading-edge case management software.