8 Promising Practice Areas for Tomorrow's Lucrative Jobs

By Casey C. Sullivan, Esq. on October 14, 2015 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Want to get rich quick without really trying? Build an app and hope it takes off. Want to pay off your student loans and maybe buy a house or two someday? Focus on the practice areas that are in demand now and promise to keep growing into the future.

These eight practice areas are not only bringing in the billable hours today, they have the potential to keep lawyers working and earning throughout their careers.

On the Upswing: Real Estate and Corporate Transactional

After crashing during the Great Recession, real estate and corporate transactional lawyers are back in demand. Real estate practitioners have benefited from the market's comeback, while corporate lawyers are needed to help with increasing mergers, acquisitions, joint ventures, and new financial and industry regulations.

But lawyers pursuing these practice areas should be comfortable with their boom-bust nature. "We just can't keep our clients fed with real estate and corporation transactional lawyers enough," legal search consultant Valerie Fontaine recently explained on the ABA Journal's Asked and Answered podcast. "But several years ago, we couldn't sell those people to save our souls. Those folks were being laid off."

In Demand: Intellectual Property and Litigation

Companies are always looking to defend their intellectual property and they need lawyers to do it. Intellectual property lawyers are highly sought after and can often command above-market rates, according to Robert Half Legal. Those with degrees in electrical engineering, computer science, or biology are particularly sought after, though there's still space for English and history majors in "soft IP," like copyright.

Litigation also remains a constant demand. Insurance claims, personal injury, malpractice, and employment law are areas where litigation skills are needed. For the contract lawyer (freelancing by choice or by necessity), litigation firms are often more willing to take on contract lawyers -- and it's not just for document review. Contract lawyers may do research, motion writing, and other litigation prep.

Steady: Criminal, Family, and Wealth Management

There will always be divorce, death, and DUIs and lawyers will always be there to help clients through. Criminal, family, and wealth management practices are remarkably resilient to market changes, since normal, everyday people need such representation all the time. They're the government bonds of legal practice -- not too sexy, not too risky, and always there to provide a solid return.

The New Kid: Compliance

Corporate legal departments regularly rank compliance and ethics as their number one concern, followed closely by regulatory and government changes. Companies need lawyers, both as in-house attorneys and outside counsel, to help them navigate and understand a host of legal regulations. An increase in government regulatory systems, such as the Dodd-Frank Act, has led to a boom in compliance work, especially for new lawyers. There is one catch, however. Esquires who work as "compliance officers," instead of as traditional firm or in-house attorneys, often start out making much smaller wages. But, once you get experience, compliance attorneys can end up making very lucrative wages.

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