How to prep for the hot practice areas

By Hillary Mantis

I’m not an economist, but as a career counselor I do see signs of life in the job market. It seems to be getting better — slowly. But as it’s improving, it’s changing.

The experts seem to concur.

“Law graduates must enter law school with the understanding that the jobs picture, while strengthening, is one that will continue to evolve, and in the course of that evolution is almost certain that new opportunities will present themselves,” according to James Leipold, Executive Director of NALP.

So, how do you position yourself to take advantage of these emerging opportunities?

If you and I had a crystal ball that could predict the future, we would try to find out what types of jobs, and practice areas would be in demand by the time you graduated. That way you could position yourself, while a student, by taking courses in those areas, doing externships, becoming active in student groups, and writing a paper or note.

Add all of the above to your resume, and voila — you have a targeted resume to use in applying to jobs in growing practice areas. You have now developed somewhat of an expertise. 

But how do you find out the growth areas so you can position yourself?

Right now, from what I have seen and heard, compliance is a very big area, real estate has made a comeback, and litigation seems stable. Health care seems very hot, as does IP.  Some practice areas, like family law and criminal law, always seem to have a need for lawyers. Others, like real estate and bankruptcy, are more cyclical.

But it’s hard to predict what areas will grow in the future. So if you haven’t graduated yet, it makes sense to stay up on the legal news. The National Jurist is writing a detailed report on the hottest practice areas that will appear in its September issue.

Until then, some good resources include NALP, which tracks all sorts of data about law salaries, hiring, and growth areas. It also publishes a nice summary of the legal news of the week, which you can access through their website ( I also like Robert Denney’s reports on the legal job market (

There are other resources, and of course right at your own law school you have professors who are experts in emerging subject areas, and alumni practicing in those areas.

While you are a student it’s easy to forget that the real world is out there — and it’s changing all the time. A little ongoing research and strategizing now could pay off for you bigtime in the future.

Hillary Mantis consults with law students, pre-law students, and lawyers. She is a Director of the Pre-Law Program at Fordham University and author of Alternative Careers for Lawyers. For more information, you can write to Hillary at