This month’s issue of Law Practice Management (Jan/Feb 2005) contain’s Robert Denney’s annual Trends Report: What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession. Topping the list of hot practice areas are employment law, IP and contingency litigation (though not for personal injury, which is cool due to tort reform legislation). Also hot, but less so are white-collar crime, litigation (especially IP), real estate, corporate, family law, private equity and immigration (for high volume but routine work), health law, education law and energy at certain large firms (based on how busy I’ve been lately with energy per diem work, I can confirm that the field is hot now). Apparently family law makes the list not because of a proliferation of issues but rather, because of new trends towards providing service. The article cites a firm that set up a family law center which offers one stop shopping for attorneys, accountants, counselors and other professionals who provide service in family law situations.
As for less popular areas, bankruptcy is falling out of favor with the economy improving (though seems like most recent bankruptcies have involved scandal plagued companies like Enron or energy companies like PG&E or Mirant).
As for trends in practice, litigation boutiques are viewed as a growing trend, litigation budgets and outsourcing of general counsel responsibilities to law firms. All of these developments can benefit small firm lawyers.
So think about adding a specialty in one of these trendy areas and take advantage of the growth while it’s good.