Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic II: Privacy, Data Security, Information Law & Healthcare 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. Last week, we debuted the top two practice areas. Here's a look at what came in third and fourth on our top ten list. 

3. Privacy, data security, information law

Privacy is a practice area that’s already seen an increase because of COVID-19.

“The private-public data sharing, along with regulatory guidance and requirements, all require businesses to have experts available to manage the complexities,” said K Royal, an adjunct professor Arizona State University. “COVID-19 is not being managed in a vacuum. Whether companies seek outside counsel assistance or hire in-house, the need for privacy attorneys, or attorneys who at least understand privacy, has never been greater and will only increase from here.”

Attorneys surveyed by Robert Half Legal also said the recent pandemic has created a need for privacy, data security and information law.

“Specialists are needed to implement data security measures for the vast number of employees who are now working remotely,” Sullivan said. “Business continuity has also become a critical imperative for companies today. They are relying on the cloud for 24/7 remote access to a full range of information and resources, and data security is an essential component of remote access.”

Until a COVID-19 vaccine is available, testing will be critical to controlling the pandemic, and that means data collection through contact tracing, employee testing and virus/antibody screening are playing an even bigger role.

“Since this data is sensitive and personal, health care entities and businesses who collect and utilize such data will need to pay careful attention to data privacy to avoid a consumer backlash and legal risks, said Gary Marchant, director of the Center for Law, Science and Innovation at Arizona State University. “All such entities will need qualified legal expertise to guide them through the data privacy and security minefields, and (that) will provide a further push to the already growing need for privacy lawyers.”

In another Robert Half Legal survey, attorneys cited cybersecurity, data analytics, e-discovery and artificial intelligence as the top tech competencies that lawyers are going to need. So if students are not sure how to spend their free time, the answer could be as simple as getting some additional training in those areas.

“Develop soft skills, like effective communication and adaptability, too,” Sullivan said. “Even when working remotely, workers can participate in various online courses, seminars, workshops and webinars to sharpen their skills.”

 4. Health care

Health care law includes a broad spectrum of matters — everything from labor disputes, medical malpractice and drug manufacturing to regulatory compliance, privacy and insurance. So, you bet, it’s hot.

“While health care issues have been a focal point during the COVID-19 crisis, many health care based businesses and individuals will continue to seek counsel on health care related matters going forward,” Sullivan said. “The market for legal talent with health care law expertise is expected to grow to manage increasing caseloads and ongoing updates to health care regulations.”

Legal professionals with health care law expertise are being sought by companies to help them understand, implement and comply with workplace health and safety policies and regulations. Health care organizations, such as hospitals and medical service providers, are seeking legal counsel and analysis of governmental regulatory and reporting mandates to minimize legal risks and liabilities relating to both patient care and employees.

“While hiring in each of these legal specialties are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, health law presents the most significant potential new market for hires in 2020-21,” said James G. Hodge Jr., director of the Center for Public Health Law and Policy at Arizona State University.

“The pandemic is redefining the delivery of health services, provision of health insurance, allocation of government health benefits, and public health practices. A new generation of health lawyers for post-COVID positions that understand, apply and craft these remarkable changes (is) needed.”

Editor's note: this is the second story in a four-part series. Check back next week for Hottest Practice Areas III to see what practice areas experts have ranked 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th. 

Related stories:

Hottest Practice Areas Post Pandemic: Litigation, Employment Law

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