Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

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ThomasLocke

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Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby ThomasLocke » Sun Jul 14, 2019 11:08 pm

Trying to brainstorm: What are the practice areas that might be small today but that might make sense to get in early on? And what are the ones to avoid because they’re getting phased out?

Blockchain and Fintech strike me as two up and comers, but hard to know if it’s more noise than anything. I see a few firms that have AI practices starting too. Privacy strikes me as another that might be valuable moving forward. And of course there’s always IP but that’s already well known.

On the flip side my sense is that practices like Trusts and Estates are getting phased out of big law. Labor and Employment is in a bad way too I think. Anything else come to mind?
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sev

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby sev » Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:10 pm

Blockchain is not and and probably will not be a true practice area. Blockchain is a type of database--not a technology in and of itself--so although it's applications will certainly have ripple effects on privacy and securities law, you're not going to see "blockchain attorneys" ten years from now.

Seconding your thoughts on privacy and data breach response, however.

What firms do you know that have AI practices?

Flarmanarnar

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby Flarmanarnar » Mon Jul 15, 2019 6:22 pm

Honestly, litigation is dying and has been for a while - unless you do some useful litigation (like patent), I would stay away from that. Agree with the above though that Blockchain probably won't be that big tbh.
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nealric

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby nealric » Tue Jul 16, 2019 8:52 am

Flarmanarnar wrote:Honestly, litigation is dying and has been for a while - unless you do some useful litigation (like patent), I would stay away from that. Agree with the above though that Blockchain probably won't be that big tbh.


Even patent lit is not necessarily doing all that great as courts seem to be giving shorter shrift to patent trolls. That said, lit can still be very lucrative in the right niche - look at firms like Quinn and Sussman.

Also agree that blockchain in and of itself won't really be much of a practice area. I'm sure blockchain-related enterprises will need legal support, however. Privacy will likely grow in importance, especially after the $5 billion Facebook fine - which almost certainly won't be the last of its type.

Outside of biglaw, I would also suggest elder law is likely to grow as the population ages.

I sometimes wonder about tax (my own practice area). On one hand, there will always be taxes, and there will always be parties that seek to minimize them. On the other hand, it is entirely possible for the tax code to change in ways that greatly reduce the benefit of tax attorneys and reduce tax planning to mostly a modeling exercise. The TCJA was a step in that direction. While it greatly complicated the Code as applied to multinational corporations (benefit to tax attorneys), it also shifted a lot of the planning towards modeling as opposed to transaction planning. Corporate controversy work seems to be in general decline as public companies are much less likely to take aggressive positions that could lead to litigation than they were 20 years ago due to more stringent disclosure rules (FIn 48, etc.) and IRS programs like CAP (which audit taxpayers in real-time rather than many years later).

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby totesTheGoat » Tue Jul 16, 2019 9:14 am

Blockchain is a buzzword, not a practice area.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby Elston Gunn » Tue Jul 16, 2019 10:56 am

totesTheGoat wrote:Blockchain is a buzzword, not a practice area.

It’s not a practice area, but I think people in this thread are giving slightly short shrift to the amount of legal work it’s generating at least at the moment. A lot of companies are doing blockchain related stuff and need advice, whether from a commercial, SEC, CFTC, AML or prudential regulation perspective. Whether you think this will continue to grow depends to a large degree on whether you believe the technology is actually all that valuable. (I’m skeptical.) Also, as my list suggests, it will be a very rare attorney who has expertise in all those areas. But if it’s use keeps growing, there are a ton of legal issues implicated.

Certainly agree about privacy, especially as this is an area that is seriously in flux at the state level, and the one substantive area that seems reasonably likely to see major federal reform in the next few years (which I expect would include, at minimum, expanded enforcement authority for the FTC).

More of a speculative one, but I think there’s a good chance you’ll see a renaissance of the antitrust area. Aggressive antitrust enforcement is a big thing on the left right now, and an area where a president mostly doesn’t need Congress.

I’m a DC-lawyer, so this is all mostly about government-facing practices. I’m sure there are other practices that will see much bigger booms that I know nothing about.

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby totesTheGoat » Tue Jul 16, 2019 11:17 am

I agree that blockchain implicates various areas of the law, but that's no different than any other widely adopted technology. You could replace the word "blockchain" with one of a number of other techy buzzwords and they'd implicate a similar set of practice areas.

To address OP's premise, it's not worth becoming a blockchain expert in the hopes that one day you'll become the pre-eminent scholar on blockchain law. 1) the law doesn't really interact with the details of the technology all that much; 2) in the few areas where point 1 is wrong, blockchain isn't so hard to learn that you couldn't pick it up on the fly; and 3) if it's not blockchain, then it'll be something else. There's always some tech utopian buzzword flitting around making work for lawyers.

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Elston Gunn

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Re: Practice areas that will be growing/dying in the next decade

Postby Elston Gunn » Tue Jul 16, 2019 11:39 am

That’s true, though the tech-utopian trendiness of it is a big part of why there’s so much work (ie you’ve got a lot of people raising money for their silly blockchain/cryptocurrency project etc who need to hire a lawyer). But yes, certainly true that OP shouldn’t set out to become an “blockchain attorney.” A financial services attorney that focuses on tech issues though? Possibly a different story.



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