Staffing expert predicts-- The hot legal practice areas in the year ahead

By Reni Gertner

The Daily Record Newswire

Despite sobering unemployment numbers across the country, employment for lawyers continues to be promising in the hottest practice areas.

Firms are actively hiring attorneys who specialize in the highest-demand niches, according to Charles Volkert, executive director at Robert Half Legal, a national legal staffing agency.

"We're finding increasing job availability for attorneys with specialized skills," said Volkert, who is based in Miami.

Also, small firms - especially boutiques that specialize in the hottest areas - are flourishing, he said.

Here's a look at the practice areas that are expected to be in the greatest demand in the coming year:

Health Care

In the health care arena, demand is rising for legal advice due to "changing regulations the growth of the health care industry, and because the baby boomers are getting older," said Volkert.

Robert Denney, a strategic and marketing consultant for lawyers, agreed.

"It's comprehensive, involving regulatory matters, labor and employment, immigration, real estate and professional liability related to health care," said Denney, who is based in Wayne, Pa., and publishes a report entitled "What's Hot and What's Not in the Legal Profession" twice a year.

Labor and Employment

Labor and employment continues to top the practice area list due to a combination of factors, including layoffs, increased unionization efforts and collective bargaining issues in some states, as well as regulations from the National Labor Relations Board that affect both public and private employees, Denney said.

Intellectual Property

"The need to protect intellectual property has become even more critical as the livelihoods of more businesses depend on breakthroughs in the sciences," fueling a demand for IP attorneys, said Volkert.

Intellectual property will continue to be hot in 2012, said Denney, due to the patent overhaul legislation that was signed by President Barack Obama in the fall.

"If I were a litigator, I would focus on patent and copyright litigation," he said.

Financial Services

In the wake of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, financial services is "red hot," including any legal work related to banking, financing or lending, said Denney.

Consumer Bankruptcy

Although filings are down from two years ago, said Denney, bankruptcy is still hot in terms of dealing with existing filings and processing new ones.

Published: Mon, Dec 12, 2011

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