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.

Psst. If you think privacy law is a growing practice area for attorneys, you're one of the few.

Psst. If you think privacy law is a growing practice area for attorneys, you’re one of the few.

Magazine folks and legal commentators all try to assess (OK, “guess”) where the legal profession is headed. And one of the important elements in that horse-race is determining what practice areas are growing—and which are shrinking.

Last week, legal staffing firm Robert Half International issued another of its studies of lawyer perception. This one reported on attorney responses to questions about areas that will have the most revenue opportunities in the future.

I was not surprised (nor was anyone) that “Litigation” and “General business commercial law” held onto the top two berths (59% and 31% of respondents, respectively, view those as growth areas). That fact may be true, but it doesn’t illuminate much about law practice. Even otherwise-educated lawyers, who know that those broad terms encompass a wide variety of practice areas, routinely select those umbrellas when surveyed.

So we’ve been taught to look instead at what came in at Numbers 3, 4 and so on.

Health care law is seen by a pretty resounding 14% of lawyer respondents to be a growth opportunity. Now that’s interesting. After that, bankruptcy/foreclosure (8%) and labor & employment (7%) follow.

Surprising to me is that “privacy, data security and information law” languishes at just 4%. Really? We are inundated with a barrage of news that reveals how significant those areas are in every area of modern life. I think that attorneys who can marshal the experience and knowledge to guide that conversation have to be making a winning gamble. Apparently, though, only few lawyers want to roll the dice.

Read more about the survey results here.

And what do you think the growth areas are? And once you identify them, are you able to mobilize to develop new lines of work?

Infographic_Robert Half growing practice areas

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.