To paraphrase an old Yiddush saying, men and women plan, pandemic laughs.
Take a look at some of completely unexpected winners…and losers recently anointed by the pandemic:
- With the population housebound, rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have seen declines of 70-80 percent in usage. Instead, folks are substituting bicycles for public transportation and uber to get around without risk of infection, spawning a bike shortage.
- State COVID travel restrictions and quarantines have put the kibosh on vacation travel, which has left Air BNB (not to mention its millions of hosts) in the lurch. But under the press of isolation, the call of the open road still beckons and RV rentals are booming.
- Once all the rage, co-working spaces like WeWork are struggling because shared space is the last place that anyone wants to work right now. On the flip side, online furniture sales from companies like Wayfair (which also offers business accounts) are soaring as people are customizing their home space for work. (If you’re in the market for home office furniture, we posted some recommendations here two years ago.
- More time at home doesn’t just mean no movies (except drive-ins) and more Netflix. Folks stuck home are seeking comfort in other ways – from puppies to pepperoni.
Lawyers should pay attention to these mega-trends which make nifty micro-niches. For example, expect a rise in dog-bite cases with so many more dog adoptions, many by owners who are unfamiliar with training a pet. And while ordinary car accident numbers are down, the influx of RV drivers and bicyclists on the road — most lacking in experience –will likely lead to increased incidents.
Of course, lawyers can look to other practice areas – like trusts and estates or bankruptcy – old standbys in down times that can balance out the slow performing cases. But what’s exciting about micro-niches is that lawyers may not need to switch practice areas or need new skills to take those matters on. For example, a PI attorney with car accident experience could come up to speed more quickly on dog bite or bicycle matters than bankruptcy.
Moreover, as hot practice areas grow more competitive, mega-trends can help lawyers stand out. For example, as Air BNB struggles, so too have its hosts who often use rental revenues to cover their mortgage costs. If the pandemic continues, Air BNB hosts may consider foreclosure relief or bankruptcy – and astute bankruptcy lawyers can target this demographic to distinguish themselves in a crowded market.
Many lawyers are creatures of conventional wisdom. We fall back on precedent (things will bounce back as they did before) or experience (clients will always need an “in court” lawyer) that no longer hold true in the wake of a global epidemic. Today,we live in a world where we can no longer predict what will happen – but we can focus on and respond to what’s right in front of us. That’s where we solo and small firm lawyers have always stood out.
Maybe we can’t plan. So what? If we stay scrappy and nimble, follow the trends and think outside the box, we just might be the ones laughing.