Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic: Litigation, Employment Law

This has been a wild year — which could be the understatement of the year. No one could have predicted that a pandemic would hit and throw the world into chaos.

No part of society was spared, not even law. The COVID-19 pandemic could easily affect the direction future lawyers and current law students take, career-wise.

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. While a number of practice areas would have been strong regardless of the pandemic — think health care law — they have gotten even hotter because of it. 

“I have been speaking to alumni in areas that we believe will only get busier as a result of the pandemic and the economic downturn,” said Jayne Schreiber, assistant dean of career planning at Fordham University School of Law in New York City. “Areas like bankruptcy law, labor and employment law, matrimonial law, internet law and child advocacy, to name a few.  Also, of course, health law will probably be an area that will be very busy as well.”

But if COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that things can change at any moment. Employment experts say law students should consider job satisfaction and their interest in a particular area as much as growth opportunities when choosing a career path.

  1. Litigation

“When it comes to litigation, the COVID-19 pandemic will result in an increase in the demand for litigation associates,” said Ray English, assistant dean of career and employment services at Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. “This result will stem from the increase in disputes generated by the pandemic, and the buildup of cases due to delays caused by the pandemic.”

In 2019, Robert Half Legal asked attorneys to name the practice areas expected to offer the greatest number of job opportunities during the first half of 2020. Most of them (27%) predicted the hottest specialty would be litigation — specifically, commercial litigation and insurance defense.

Litigation work slowed during the pandemic, but a surge of cases in that area is expected in the near future.

“In-demand practice areas are changing due to COVID-19,” said Jamy Sullivan, executive director of the legal staffing and consulting firm. “For instance, the litigation practice area slowed down considerably in the early stages of the pandemic, as courts closed except for essential cases. As a result, many hearings and depositions were postponed or canceled. With that said, we have begun to see a considerable uptick in litigation, and we expect activity will continue to ramp up when more courts reopen.”

In short, see you in court.

  1. Labor and employment

Right on the heels of litigation comes labor and employment law, according to the Robert Half survey.

“We’re seeing an increase in demand for legal professionals with backgrounds in labor and employment law as companies grapple with COVID-19-related workplace issues, such as family and medical leave, unemployment, the health and well-being of employees, and office reopenings,” Sullivan said.

Michael Selmi, a law professor at Arizona State University, said there has been a wave of lawsuits involving employment issues related to the pandemic.

“Many employment lawyers are extremely busy currently, and there should be a strong need for more lawyers in the area, so this might be a promising area for law students,” he said.

Selmi noted that it could be hard to get jobs immediately in this specialty area because many firms are working with limited staff and may not be hiring. Also, many companies may be holding off on spending money on legal advice during the pandemic.

Editor's note: this is the first story in a four-part series. Check back next week for Hottest Practice Areas II to see what practice areas experts have ranked 3rd and 4th. 
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