In the midst of all the changes occurring — or at least being talked about — in the legal profession today, many people forget that two of the basic principles that successful firms have always followed have not changed:
• They focus their resources on developing certain practice areas. Some of these areas are “standards” — they are always in demand. Others are cyclical, depending on the economy, new legislation by Congress or new regulations by federal and state governments.
• They identify certain trends, some of which will be short-lived and others that will be permanent, and capitalize on these trends.
Twice a year for over 20 years we have published a report on what is going on in the profession, not only in the United States but also in other parts of the world. There are often significant changes from one report to the next. This is a special update on the year-end report we published last December.
The following areas are red hot, not just locally but nationally:
• Regulatory: Although Dodd-Frank and the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will continue to face challenges, both political and legal, regulation is a major issue. It particularly impacts certain industries — health care, financial services, pharmaceutical and energy. Closely related to this area is …
• Government Affairs: A growing number of firms are creating government affairs groups because of the increasing role of government, both federal and state, in business and legal matters.
• Health Care: Covers many specific practice areas and all types of providers.
Some of the areas that continue to be hot, together with a few new ones, include:
• Financial Services: In addition to Dodd-Frank, the new drivers in this area are consumer finance and suits being filed against lenders for what has come to be known as “robo-signing” of documents. Another developing issue is increased regulatory requirements for private equity and hedge funds.
• Energy: Particularly oil, gas and nuclear. Gas has become red hot in Pennsylvania and New York because of the proposed regulations from the Delaware River Basin Commission that will impact the Marcellus Shale gas play.