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Business Development

What’s Hot and What’s Not in Practice Areas

By Bob Denney

Even if your practice isn’t in transition right now, it’s good to stay on top of the market trends for planning purposes. Twice a year, Bob Denney identifies the most important current trends in the business of practicing law, including what’s hot and not in specific practice areas. This time around, we asked Bob to take a deeper look at those practice areas just for Attorney at Work readers.

Red Hot
  • Health Care. This industry was hot even before ObamaCare fanned the flames of reform. It involves many practice areas including regulatory, finance, mergers and acquisitions, real estate, labor and employment, and professional liability. This will be red hot permanently.
  • Energy. Oil and gas have been hot for several years. Although “alternate energy” has cooled somewhat, coal has heated up again. And, since the disaster in Japan, nuclear power has reawakened regulatory and financial concerns. This too will remain red hot.
  • Financial Services. Institutions are still trying to understand the scope of Dodd-Frank. Some larger firms have formed multidisciplinary teams to counsel clients in dealing with the new regulations, some of which are not yet defined. This will remain red hot for a while.
  • Regulatory. Many states are passing their own laws in opposition to the efforts of the federal government, particularly in health care, energy, banking and environmental. Constitutional issues are beginning to arise.
  • White-Collar Crime. Criminal investigations regarding fraud are increasing. Adding fuel to the fire are new issues relating to the disclosure of inside information on social media.
  • Labor & Employment. Whether on the labor or management side, this is one of the areas that is always hot. Violations of the wage-and-hour laws are increasing. So is union opposition to right-to-work laws or pending legislation in many states. And what will be the fallout of the Wal-Mart sex-discrimination case?
  • Intellectual Property. IP firms have been growing and full-service firms are expanding their IP departments through mergers and lateral hires. Now that Congress has passed patent reform, this will become red hot.
Hot & Cold
  • Commercial Litigation. This is a varied picture. In some firms it’s hot and in others, only warm. The cost of litigation has led to an increase in Alternate Dispute Resolution (ADR) in some firms. However, despite pressure on legal departments to cut costs, surveys report GCs expect a continuing increase in the number of new cases.
  • Bankruptcy. This is a counter-cyclical area that is hot when the economy is poor and cools down when the economy improves. New filings have dropped sharply since last Fall. BR will stay cool unless there is a double dip in the recession.
  • Mergers & Acquisitions. Some deals are still going through, but many are on hold until corporations feel more confident about the economy and the Obama administration’s actions. But it will be hot soon again.

Bob Denney is President of Robert Denney Associates, Inc. He says “it seems like forever” that he has been providing counsel on management and growth strategy to firms throughout the United States and parts of Canada. The complete Midyear Update on “What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession” is now on the firm’s website,

Related Dispatches

Categories: Business Development, Daily Dispatch
Originally published June 30, 2011
Last updated July 8, 2011
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Bob Denney Bob Denney

For 45 years, Bob Denney provided services to over 400 U.S. law firms and legal organizations as well as serving as an outside director and interim CEO for public and privately held companies. At Robert Denney and Associates, Bob provided management, leadership, strategic planning and business development services and was a respected speaker and author.  His articles appeared in many legal publications, but he is best known for producing highly regarded reports on What’s Hot and What’s Not in the Legal Profession. Bob passed away in 2021 at the age of 89.

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