Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic IV: Bankruptcy and Foreclosure, Family Law & Civil Rights, Social Justice Law

COVID-19 has affected everything in our society — legal practice specialties included. New focus has been placed on areas of law that relate to a world in crisis.

Every year, The National Jurist asks experts to predict what will be the hottest practice areas. This year looks vastly different than years past, given the rapid spread of the coronavirus. The past three weeks, we have announced the top two practice areas and what came in third and fourth and what areas ranked 5th-8th. Here are the final practice areas in our top ten list for 2020:

9. Bankruptcy and foreclosure

Many companies had to file for bankruptcy in wake of COVID-19, and more people and businesses may be forced to do so in the coming months. Unfortunately, such financial tragedies make this a hot practice area.

“Many companies have filed for Chapter 11, and others are evaluating their financial position following weeks of closure,” Sullivan said. “We can expect businesses to seek legal advice on strategies to mitigate financial hardships — including reorganization, debt restructuring, liquidation and bankruptcy filings — in the months ahead.”

Sullivan says that following weeks of unemployment, many individuals are experiencing significant financial challenges and mounting debt. Many will likely look to legal professionals for counsel on managing personal bankruptcies. However, their wallets may be empty.

“The pandemic has triggered an uptick in calls to legal clinics and pro bono legal service providers,” Sullivan said. “Small businesses and individuals are looking for legal guidance on a range of matters, including financial credit issues. COVID-19 has prompted a surge of employment law inquiries relating to . . . layoffs, family leave, safe working conditions and unemployment compensation.”

By all accounts, the economic fallout from COVID-19 is going to cause a rise in bankruptcies and foreclosures.

“I would expect hiring for those practice areas to be robust over the next several years as firms seek to build up their capacity to meet growing demand,” said Laura Coordes, an associate professor of law at Arizona State University.

 10. Family law

There is continued demand for legal services that deal with family relationships, such as adoption, child support, divorce and legal separation. With court closures, there has been a surge in the need for guidance from counsel.

“It is anticipated that there will be a backlog of cases as courts open, particularly around child support and child custody modifications,” Sullivan said.

Law professors say family law also will likely be in demand given the stress the pandemic is putting on relationships.

“On the one hand, as with other practice areas, the closing of the courts and shelter in place orders have complicated family law practice,” said Kaiponanea Matsumura, an associate professor of law at Arizona State University. “During the previous economic slowdown, some individuals chose to put their divorces on hold due to the expenses involved in maintaining separate households. And we may see that pattern repeat if the economy is slow to recover.”

On the other hand, individuals are still filing for divorce and dealing with family disputes. And reports indicate that the pandemic has put additional pressure on many marriages.

And: civil rights/social justice law

COVID-19 was not the only disruption our society faced in 2020. The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers sparked nationwide protests, the likes of which had not been seen in decades. Protesters are demanding justice, equal treatment and police reform.

This is where civil rights and social justice lawyers play a significant role. They have led charges against police brutality, predatory lending, housing discrimination and many other equal rights violations. No doubt, their role will increase as individuals become more assertive in fighting racist or discriminatory actions by institutions and businesses.

Related stories:

Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic: Litigation, Employment Law

Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic II: Privacy, Data Security, Information Law & Healthcare Law

Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic III: Insurance, Regulatory, Intellectual Property & Tax Law

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