Is Your Law Firm Ready for 2017? What You Need to Know from Attorney at Work’s Annual Hot List

Attorney at Work has published its 28th annual list of trends in the legal profession, and it covers everything from law firm marketing and practice areas to technology. Primarily because of the recent election, the legal industry can expect major changes (and virtually every other industry as well). So how should your firm prepare? We’ve summed up some of the biggest legal trends to keep top of mind as the new year unfolds.

Practice areas will reflect the incoming administration.

If you’ve read the news lately, it won’t come as a shock that cybersecurity, health care, immigration and environmental law are all poised to become hot practice areas in this new year. Also on the rise are related areas like elder law, infrastructure, and labor and employment. Energy is heating up too, although interest in alternative energy is likely to shrink. The one area likely to remain cold is bankruptcy—as long as the economy holds steady.

Rising industries will require legal guidance.

Thanks to the explosion of specialty diets and all-natural foods, the food, beverage and agriculture industries have been hot and will stay that way. The fledgling cannabis industry will need legal help due to the potential of significant product liability risk. And 3-D printing and other innovative manufacturing processes will continue to grow in 2017.

And the hottest market award goes to…Pittsburgh?

Attorney at Work picked the Steel City because, “its economy is fueled by banking, health care, tech and education”. The city’s top firms are steadily growing, and several national firms have opened offices there. Of course, don’t discount New York. Many firms are opening up shop in Manhattan due to the growing tech industry.

Firms are banking on business development.

Law firms are facing more competition than ever and not just from other firms. Disruptive legal services like LegalZoom and in-house legal departments will continue to pose a threat, and many firms are focusing on business development as a response. Some firms have taken a page out of the accounting industry’s book by hiring full-time “sales executives” and marketing and business development consultants.

Law firms will look different.

The structure of law firms will also continue to change. The number of equity partners is declining while contract lawyers are on the rise. Firms are recognizing the importance of strategic leadership and hiring non-attorney managers to head marketing, tech and project management. Some studies are indicating that more firms may elect women as partner, and mergers may reach an all-time high in 2017.

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