10 fastest changing practice areas

New federal laws and cutting-edge trends are increasing the pace of change. Here are 10 specialty areas that face a shortage of attorneys who fully understand the issues. Find the full list in the 2016 Lawyer & Statesman

By Sherry Karabin

As the world changes, so do the laws. And as laws change, attorneys must adapt. But that’s not a bad thing. In fact, change usually means opportunity for lawyers.

The world has seen a lot of change as of late. From Dodd-Frank to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, several new laws have brought massive change. And all that change has benefited lawyers.

But it’s not just big federal laws that are bringing about change. Data breaches, social media and even retail health clinics are contributing.

We spoke to experts — both legal consultants and law professors — to identify the practice areas that have undergone the most change and that require attorneys to invest the most time to ensure they are up to speed.

At the top of the list: cybersecurity and its accompanying privacy and data breach concerns.

“Cybersecurity is an area which is in tremendous demand,” said Richard Hermann, an expert on the legal job market and a law professor at Concord Law School in Los Angeles. “The number of data-breach incidents is continuing to grow, and the hackers are getting more sophisticated. The problem is there are not enough attorneys out there who are conversant with both the legal and technical aspects of data protection.”

It’s the same story with many of the practice areas listed here. The pace of change is so fast that attorneys with the requisite knowledge are in short supply.

Take health law, for example. As scientists develop new treatments to help people live longer, those in the health law field are likely to find themselves going where no attorney has gone before — grappling with telemedicine and biotechnology. Can a practitioner diagnose and treat a patient via an iPad, even if he is not licensed in the patient’s home state?

“Only a handful of states have addressed this issue to date,” Hermann said.

This era of change is a lawyer’s wish come true — assuming he or she is prepared to handle the issues.

Find all 10 fast-changing practice areas in the 2016 Lawyer & Statesman