what's hot and not in law practice

On a regular basis, Bob Denney puts himself and his judgment out there and predicts what will be the coming year’s hot—and cold—law practice areas.

He recently did so again, and I encourage you to read his prognostications.

In the meantime, here are a few he mentioned that made me pause and wonder how lawyers and law firms are responding to these new pushes and pulls. As Bob says:

Social media. Continues to be far more effective for building individual lawyer reputations than for firms.

Competition. It’s no longer just from other law firms. It’s now coming from two other directions: Non-legal business entities like LegalZoom and, for large firms, more and more from the clients themselves who are using their legal departments as well as alternate service providers.

Cybersecurity. While many firms have developed plans for reacting to a cyberattack, many more have still not developed or implemented cybersecurity plans to prevent such attacks. One overlooked factor is what actually constitutes a breach. Some firms regard any unsanctioned access of a firm system as a breach, while others do not regard it as a breach until something — data, files or money — has been taken.

Scamblogging. A category of online writing by debt-burdened law school graduates who are convinced their law schools misled them about their opportunities for employment.

What’s growing in your law practice? If it’s a niche or topic that surprises you, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

modern law practice technology tools niche

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Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

Yes, mindfulness is making a dent in the legal profession, among other simmering trends.

We all have our guilty pleasures, and I confess one of mine is legal predictions.

Based on the number of folks who share with me their thoughts on which firms will next merge or go belly up, I cannot be the only one.

But among the less painful predictions are those related to what will happen to legal practice areas: Which will grow—and which will shrink—in the coming year.

Among those accomplished at the prognostication task is Bob Denney. His posts with his previews are much anticipated—and shared.

So that’s what I do today. Here are his best estimates for practice area changes in 2016.

For those in too big a hurry to click, here are a few of his predicted areas of growth: cybersecurity, white-collar crime, mergers & acquisitions, and employment & labor. Keep reading here.

Do you agree? Are you seeing the same thing? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.orgmaybe there’s a story in it.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not In the legal profession?

And here are a few other fascinating bits from Bob Denney:

Social media. Except for Facebook, it continues to be hot. Firm websites and blogs are still among the most effective online means for reaching in-houHot and Not law practice areasse counsel and potential clients, but some marketing experts say they may be surpassed by …

Content syndicators and aggregators. Platforms like JDSupra, Mondaq and even LinkedIn enable a firm to push its content to other sites and services.

Advertising. Whether online, print, TV, radio, billboards or even bus exteriors, advertising continues to be the principal marketing strategy for personal injury lawyers as well as others.

Millennials. Hiring, training and retaining them, as staff as well as lawyers, will continue to be a challenge because many of them chafe against the traditional law firm culture. Yet they are the future of the legal profession.

Departures. Although lateral hiring continues to be a hot growth strategy for many firms, most is at the partner level because firms want the book of business laterals can bring with them. However, fueled to a great degree by the expansion of corporate legal departments, law firm associates and even partners without a large book of business are departing to join legal departments. Why? The workload and the compensation are generally more consistent, without the pressure to record high billable hours and originate business. Translation: The quality of life is better.

Mindfulness movement. There are now reportedly at least two dozen law schools that offer for-credit courses in this Zen-inspired blend of meditation, breathing exercises and focus techniques, which are supported by companies such as Google and General Mills. At least one law firm and the legal department of a major corporation retain a mindfulness coach.

Bar exam scores. The average score on the 2015 summer bar exams reached its lowest level since 1988. Some law school deans have said the test was unfair and that a software glitch made it harder to submit test results. The president of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, which created the multiple-choice section of the test, replied that law schools have been admitting students with lower qualifications who may encounter difficulty in taking the exam. And, of course, applications to law schools have been declining.

Hot and Not law practice areasIs your law practice on the leading edge; or is it bringing up the rear? A preview of an annual assessment of burgeoning law practice areas is out, and it may be helpful to track your own path.

I always enjoy these annual articles by Bob Denney, who writes a “what’s hot” assessment. (Let’s admit it right now; the what’s hot trope is an awkward one, but no need to go on about it.)

His full piece will not be out for months, when he describes his predictions for 2016. But we get a preview here.

As you can see, Denney identifies labor & employment and elder law as on an upward trajectory. But litigation and bankruptcy are not faring as well.

You also can see his predictions from last December here. How’d he do?

What’s working in your own law office? Are there any niche areas that are growing faster than you would have expected? I’d like to hear about them. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not in the legal profession?

Hot and Not 2013 law practice areasHappy last day of 2013. What better day to offer some predictions of hot law practice areas?

That is what the talented Bob Denney has done, and I share his thoughts here.

You may recall that I did the same about a year ago. Because I did that, you can go back in time to see if he nailed it or missed a hot area. Read that post here.

For 2014, Bob spots a few very hot areas: energy, health care and regulatory (“particularly in health care, energy and financial services”).

You can read the complete article here.

To see his more surprising predictions, scroll down to his section titled “Other Trends and Issues.” That is where you’ll see his thoughts on non-lawyer competition, mergers, virtual law firms, hourly rates, lawyer training and more.

His overall take on the legal profession as we head into a new year?

“Much better than the pessimistic pundits are predicting. Between retirements and reduced hiring of law school graduates, the oversupply of lawyers will work its way down. But if you look at the total market for legal services and not just the number of lawyers, there will be further growth as new laws and regulations are passed and more non-lawyers and entities exist to provide them.”

I hope you enjoy his article as much as I did.

But now here’s my question: Where is the Arizona version of this article? Is there an Arizona attorney with her or his finger on the pulse of what’s happening who could offer insights as Bob does so well?

You’d better believe I’d like to hear from you. New Year’s Resolution: Promise to contact the Arizona Attorney Editor at arizona.attorney@azbar.org to discuss story and blog post ideas. There’s a byline in it for you (and at least a coffee and good convo!).

Happy New Year; I’ll be back on Thursday.

mergers acquisitions monopoly board

Are mergers & acquisitions really heating up again? Really?

Fall and winter are the seasons when commentators begin musing about the coming year. And in law, nothing is more attractive than coverage of what practice areas are on the rise, and which are on the decline. Or, in the argot popular in the genre, what’s hot and what’s not.

I came across a very good analysis of exactly that this week, by Bob Denney. His commentary is long, detailed and well supported. One thing I often enjoy is reviewing articles like this to see if they agree with my own armchair assessments.

By that standard, how does the article measure up against your own practice experience?

For instance, Bob rates as “red hot” the areas of energy, health care and sports law. More tepid are areas like real estate, M&A and bankruptcy.

I don’t know if anyone shops around for a new practice based on analyses like these, but they are helpful.

Also insightful is the section in Bob’s article titled “Other Trends and Issues.” There, he explores law school enrollment and even the declining square footage of law partner offices. But one thing that caught my eye was his conclusion that “Most law firms are undercapitalized.” We’ve seen examples of that—and of the occasional sorry outcome of that. But do you think that will be a significant driver of the profession in 2013?

He also says that, in regard to the trend to demand project management, “On the whole, there appears to be far more talk about PM—by both firms and consultants—than action. It may be another case of ‘sound and fury.’”

That comment led me to think about Mark Lassiter’s presentation last week. You may recall that he stressed the dire need for law firms to develop PM skills, which corporate clients increasingly expect to see demonstrated. But Mark also said the skill is often lacking.

Recently, I came across a Bloomberg News video in which an East Coast lawyer gave his own heat assessment about one practice area. Bill Lawlor of Dechert LLP (in Philadelphia) says that M&A is heating up.

Mergers and acquisitions? Hmmm. That one was a surprise. Watch the complete video below.

What practice is getting warmer here in Arizona? And do you agree with Bob Denney or Bill Lawlor on any of these areas? Have you migrated practices in the last few years? Or do you expect to move to another practice in the near future?

At Arizona Attorney, we’d like to tell some stories about areas that lawyers are headed toward. Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.