What goes up must come down, and the same is proving true with the legal market. 2021 saw law firms hiring at a frenzied pace and associates taking salary increases and bonuses to the bank. Unfortunately, 2022 ended with news of massive layoffs and hiring freezes in the legal market. The good news for lawyers is that the legal industry is still projected to grow by 10% through 2031.[i] So, what will 2023 hold?
Potential for Growth—Practice Areas
When the economy is bad, it’s true that some practice areas dry up—but others take off. The tightening economy at the end of 2022 (and continuing into 2023) had some BigLaw firms laying off lawyers. Falling demand and reduced profits hit some firms and practice areas harder than others.[ii] Firms that trimmed lawyers include big names like Cooley, Goodwin, Kirkland, and Gunderson, and hit practice areas like tech and transactional work. Demand for transactional lawyers and their work in corporate finance and deal work fell in 2022.[iii] Overall, law firms may be looking at a flat 2023, so it’s important to do your research when you are looking at your employment options for the coming year.
Here are some practice areas that could see growth in 2023.
- Business Litigation. This area is expected to stay busy in 2023, in part because of the economy and in part due to lingering COVID backlogs in the courts. Either way, litigation should remain a hot area for the coming year.
- Cyber Security. Any area relating to cyber security will be busy this year. Privacy issues, security breaches, insurance issues, and tech advancements are some of the ways in which work in the cyber security practice can manifest.
- Cannabis Law. With more and more states legalizing marijuana, whether for medical or recreational use, cannabis law is growing in the United States. Statute drafting, contract work, and federal regulatory issues are just some of the ways a lawyer can work in the cannabis industry.
- Healthcare Law. Always a hot button topic, legal issues related to health and healthcare are abundant. Some areas in this sector are state and federal regulatory schemes, antitrust accusations, billing fraud, patient privacy rights, labor representation, tax issues, malpractice cases, compliance analyses, and contract negotiation and drafting.
- Immigration. Whether it be work visas, deportation issues, asylum cases, or anywhere in between, immigration will be a thriving industry for lawyers. With laws constantly changing, this practice area is great for those who like to keep up with new legal issues and trends.
- Elder Law. The U.S. has a large number of citizens who are 65 and older.[iv] Elder law practitioners have a variety of specialties, including estate tax, wills, trusts and probate, special needs, Medicare and Medicaid issues, long-term care planning, age-discrimination disputes, veterans benefits, guardianship issues, inheritance disputes, elder abuse, and disability trusts.
- Environmental Law/Green Energy. This legal area is great for lawyers who want to act as advisors, consultants, and/or analysts with environmental and energy groups. With changes in the climate of both the federal government and the (literal) weather, environmental law will see new issues for lawyers in 2023 at the state and federal levels.
- Mergers & Acquisitions. Economic uncertainty can often mean companies will look to buy, sell, and merge. Lawyers who work in diligence, compliance, contracts, litigation, and tax (to name a few areas) will likely be in demand this year. Besides looking at law firms with hot M&A groups, you should also consider government agencies and in-house roles.
- Labor & Employment. There are all sorts of issues on the horizon in this market. Pay transparency laws, non-compete clauses, workplace monitoring, and layoffs dominated the news in late 2022 and into this year. Jobs on either side of this practice area—whether working with employers or employees—include advising, litigation, immigration, and compliance.
- Intellectual Property. Over five million new business applications were filed in 2022, which means work for you IP lawyers![v] Jobs in diligence, licensing, litigation, copyright and trademark, and patents should continue to be hot in 2023.
Potential for Growth—Regions
Besides looking for hot practice areas in 2023, don’t forget to think about where you may land a job. News of layoffs has affected geographical areas like New York and Silicon Valley, but 2022 saw law firms opening offices in other areas of the country.[vi] Former “flyover states” are seeing firm expansions in areas like healthcare, real estate, venture capital, energy, banking, and more. Lower cost of living and tax benefits make these new regions more attractive to firms and lawyers alike. Some places with recent expansion include:
- Tennessee[vii]. Nashville is a hot spot for healthcare law, and many firms are opening up offices or merging with existing practices to have a presence there.
- Texas.[viii] Everything is bigger in Texas, and many big name law firms have flocked to the Lone Star state to serve big business and emerging markets.
- Colorado.[ix] Firms are taking note of all Colorado has to offer, with opportunities to work in life sciences, energy, data, and more. Not to mention the added benefits of sunshine, beautiful scenery, and high quality of life ratings.
- Florida.[x] Miami is the place to be if you’re looking to join a hot (literally) legal market. With ties to business from New York and Latin America, Miami is a great landing spot for lawyers who want to hit the beach in their downtime.
- Utah.[xi] 2022 was a big year for Salt Lake City. Several large market BigLaw firms opened shop in the “Silicone Slopes.” While many tech firms have taken a hit in bigger regional areas, Utah seems to be consistent in firm expansions.
- South Carolina.[xii] Growth in the South has fueled firms, both old and new, to expand in South Carolina in cities like Greenville, Columbia, Myrtle Beach, and more.
While these places may not have the glitz and glamor of San Francisco and New York City, they do have solid, big-name law firms and prestigious clients in need of legal services. And don’t overlook the added benefits of affordable housing, shorter commutes, and work-life balance!
[ii]Sloan, K. (2023, January 10). Law firms face daunting 2023 amid falling profits and demand. https://www.reuters.com/legal/legalindustry/law-firms-face-daunting-2023-amid-falling-profits-demand-2023-01-10/
[iii] (2023, January 9). 2023 Report on the State of the Legal Market: Mixed results and growing uncertainty.
[iv] Robert, A. (2020, January 30). Why elder law is a growing, 'anything-can-happen practice'.
[v] Tanzi, A. (2023, January 17). Over 5 Million New US Startups Show Covid-Era Boom Has Legs. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2023-01-17/over-5-million-new-us-startups-show-covid-era-boom-has-legs?utm_campaign=mb&utm_medium=newsletter&utm_source=morning_brew
[vi] Horvath, P. 2022, August 31). Growing Legal Markets Primed for New Attorneys. https://firsthand.co/blogs/vaults-law-blog-legal-careers-and-industry-news/growing-legal-markets-primed-for-new-attorneys
[vii] Merken, S. (2022, July 8). Womble opens Nashville office as city attracts more law firms.
[viii]Osakwe, C. (2022, March 7). Morrison & Foerster joins law firms landing in Austin's 'Silicon Hills'.
[ix] Skolnik, S. (2022, July 13). Big Law Raids Colorado as Tech Venture Capital Grows Business.
[x] Merken, S. (2022, May 26). Miami has moment in the sun as new hot spot for big law firms.
[xi] Merken, S. (2022, April 5). Large law firms still see allure of Utah's 'Silicon Slopes'.
[xii] Coe, A. (2022, September 28). BigLaw Expands In The Carolinas Amid Business Boom.
Want to be found by top employers? Upload Your Resume
Join Gold to Unlock Company Reviews