Starting out our legal career many students wonder what areas of law will experience the greatest growth, because demand often translates into stable work.
We asked some of our contacts what they thought, and this is what they had to say:
There is absolutely no scientific evidence to what I am saying here, but if I were a law student now, I would definitely consider intellectual property, mergers & acquisitions and immigration, in light of the current socio-economic trends.
It looks like the growing fields are anything connected with water resources and “green” issues, intellectual property and regulatory matters.
Demographics Might be Telling
John Nowakowski, another independent practitioner in San Francisco, said,
A real obvious factor to look at is the growing age of the [Western populations]. I think anything involving Elder Law is guaranteed to expand. Estate Planning, Elder Abuse, Social Security & Medicaid, Disability, etc. The amount of changes and legal areas affected are really staggering. Millions of baby boomers will retire in the decade ahead, with over a trillion dollars in assets.
Gastón Bilder, General Counsel with Empresa Petrolera Chaco SA in Bolivia, said,
I do not know about any scientific study on this matter. I would guess that globalization and population growth, plus the [aging] of most of the human population should corroborate previous answers focusing in M&A, international dispute resolution, global labor law, health law, etc.
Helene G. Parker, a sole practitioner in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area simply stated:
Immigration, Domestic Partnership Dissolution, Elder Law
How Big is IP/IT?
Mathieu Paapst, an ICT/IE legal management consultant in the Netherlands said,
For most rapid growth I would think intellectual property law and IT law.
I think there is a consensus that Intellectual Property litigation and counseling will continue to be an incredibly robust practice area for the foreseeable future (in addition to the other areas mentioned).
Aggressively developing new technology has obviously become a massive driving force behind the engine of global commerce. Intelligently protecting that emerging technology as intellectual property is no longer an option — it is an absolute necessity.
Further, as brands become more and more valuable, those of us in the trademark sector of IP practice will continue to be critical advisers to existing companies, as well as start-ups.
But Malcolm Burrows, who is currently doing a Trainee Solicitor rotation in IT & IP Law at Home Wilkinson & Lowry in Australia disagreed,
Clearly some of the responses I see here have a vested interest. I can see the responses based on demographic and global trends have some merit, but I am not sure that I see the growth for IT law.
Kent Heller of Heller, Holmes & Assoc, PC in Illinois, resolved this seemingly conflicting advise,
It depends on where you are and what you are doing. Here, in a small community we see very little [intellectual property] work. For whatever reason, we had a modicum of success in the civil rights area and are now getting more cases as the “word” spreads through the prison population. Since that is one of the fastest growing segments of our population and since it is more expensive to care for inmates every year, and since the prison corporate industrial complex is drive by the profit motive, I assume [there] will be more and more of these cases.
More Views from Abroad
K Shankar, an engineer with an LLM, MBA and completing a PhD in Patent Law at the National Law School of India University, was more direct:
- Intellectual Property Law
- International Commercial Dispute Resolution
- Investment/Securities Law
- M& A
- Cyber Law
- Taxation law
- Immigration law
- Property law
Tamila Ahmadov, a former adviser to President Aliyev of Azerbaijan who currently operates her own company, gave a more thorough response,
I’m not sure anyone can really assess what the world will be like ten years form now on any aspect. We can only extrapolate from what we see around us now. In my view the chief trends that will impact us are globalization, the aging of population in the developed countries and political friction (not necessarily in this order of impact).
Globalization will accelerate the rate of cross-border business transactions which are considerable now and will only increase in size, complexity, frequency and number as well as locale of participating parties as more people in more countries join the global game. This will require increased expertise and “bandwidth”, processing, due diligence etc for transactions as well as new areas of expertise in worldwide commerce, IP and dispute resolution. The growth of the major law firms will continue and new ones will emerge. On that point it’s interesting to note that M&A activity between large-and mid-size law firms specializing in corporate and commercial law has been growing steadily and reached a record high in 2007.
Aging of population will drive growth in healthcare, biotech and pharmaceutical transactions as costs will have to come down, demand increase and “generization” of drugs accelerated. In this context we’re bound to see more M&As – especially of large pharma buying startup outfits to accelerate their development cycle and buy pipeline drugs. IP is going to be a bigger issue as we’ll see more violations aimed at lowering drug and care costs.
The ethical aspect of the pharma’s growth will become a big issue in the near future: currently big pharmas use third world countries as their experiment labs. In essence, they get license for clinical trials in people for $ and pay chomp change for those who participate. True, those enjoy access to new drugs but that comes at a cost.
Lastly, a big ticket item will be immigration law. As more people “migrate” from their countries to developed and developing ones in the search of better opportunities friction will abound. The legal field is not developed yet and will surely see much turbulence soon.