Growth practice areas under the radar

While there may be too many lawyers are chasing too few jobs, that is not the case with practice areas experiencing a significant supply-demand gap. Seven major factors generate such gaps: 1. disruptive technologies; 2. economic inflection points; 3. globalization; 4. government policy changes; 5. new laws, regulations or court decisions; 6. geographic “anomalies;” and 7. crises. Each factor can cause a supply-demand gap and create opportunity.

1. Technological Disruption

Every technological disruption both eliminates and creates jobs. For attorneys, disruption is almost always a net plus.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, and horizontal drilling, which make possible the extraction of oil and gas from previously hard-to-reach shale deposits, is a classic example. This disruption affects the entire global economy. It threatens the OPEC cartel that has dominated energy supply and pricing for 40 years and promises the realization of the previously unattainable goal of U.S. energy independence.

This technology has created a huge demand for attorneys both in mainstream law and in law-related arenas such as the “landman” jobs that have proliferated in the 20-plus regions where major shale deposits are found. In Pennsylvania alone, more than 10,000 landmen have been hired since 2010 to help secure mineral rights. Moreover, energy law has gone national, no longer concentrated in the oil patch of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Despite the Saudi Arabia-instigated price war that has depressed energy prices to the point that fracking has declined in the past year, the job impact has been almost solely on the field workers. Energy lawyers and landmen remain unaffected.

2. Economic Inflection Points

Real estate is a classic example of how an external factor — interest rates — creates legal jobs. When rates are low, real estate’s upside — development and related transactions — thrives. When rates rise, the upside declines, but deleveraging of the real estate market creates jobs for foreclosure and bankruptcy attorneys.

3. Globalization

The end of “The Great Prosperity,” the 30 years following World War II that made the U.S. the most dominant economic power in history, precipitated the off-shoring of more than one-third of America’s manufacturing plants and the migration of jobs to Asia.

Now, globalization is generating a turnaround. Plants are coming back to the U.S. In a recent survey, 50 percent of manufacturing CEOs said they are bringing back home at least some of their manufacturing. The supply of manufacturing attorneys cannot meet the demand.

Read the rest of the story in the free Back to School digital issue of the National Jurist magazine here.