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Law Firm Strategy

8 Legal Practice Areas Growing in 2021 and Beyond

By Michael Rynowecer

Corporate clients have few sources of refuge. Facing a tsunami of new matters, their need well exceeds their capacity to deliver — despite hiring new, experienced in-house attorneys. This demand is driving substantial growth for outside counsel. The demand is broad and deep. The BTI Consulting Group’s 19th Annual Survey of Top Legal Officers reveals growth in at least eight practice areas:

  1. Cybersecurity
  2. M&A
  3. Private equity
  4. Class-action litigation
  5. Employee-related litigation
  6. Banking (Paycheck Protection Program/CARES Act investigations)
  7. Tax law
  8. Employment law

Three Legal Practice Areas Growing in Excess of 10%

  • Cybersecurity is expected to weigh in with 15% growth. The growing body of state, local, federal and global regulations is driving enormous demand. Clients are looking to law firms for overarching guidance and are looking to legal behemoths as often as boutiques to meet their needs.
  • Clients expect both M&A and private equity to grow at close to 15% as well. Both practices are building pent-up demand. Corporate clients are eager to fuel growth while private equity players are looking for the undervalued assets created by the pandemic.
  • Class actions are growing in excess of 10%, as we discuss below.

Litigation Outlook

At 12%, growth in class actions is more than double commercial litigation’s projected growth of 4.8%. Plaintiffs have become more aggressive and see numerous avenues to initiate class actions. This contrasts with commercial litigation, which was expected to skyrocket but is dominated by the early stages of employee-related litigation. More commercially oriented litigation is expected to grow once the economy or courts reopen.

Three More Growing Practice Areas

  • Most large banks handling PPP or CARES Act funds are opening investigations — and almost any large nonbank lender issuing PPP funds can expect an investigation — which will likely be settled quickly.
  • Tax practices will grow as M&A picks up, and as companies look to save taxes and plan for potential changes in the tax law under the new presidential administration.
  • Employment law will grow as the EEOC continues to issue regulations covering return to work. Discrimination claims of all kinds remain resilient.

These issues are impacting almost every size client — large clients are adding in-house attorneys, while smaller clients are hiring their first GC. Companies without a general counsel will rely on one or two law firms to manage their affairs.

All this translates into opportunities for law firms.

Clients are also hiring new law firms at the most torrid rate we have seen in over 20 years. The firms winning the business are finding ways to provide personalized education, helping clients hire and onboard in-house attorneys, and — most important of all — they are talking to their clients regularly. This means voice communication by videoconference or otherwise. Emails are a poor substitute for conversation and newsletters are barely read.

Message: The Growth Is Real and Durable — and Defies All Expectations

You can take advantage of the opportunities by exceeding client expectations. Call them now.

These insights are based on more than 240 in-depth telephone interviews conducted by The BTI Consulting Group with top legal decision-makers at companies with $750 million in revenue or more, after the pandemic started.

You can learn all about where legal spending is growing — and where it is not — in 14 practice areas and 18 industries in BTI Consulting Group’s brand-new report, the 19th Annual Survey of Top Legal Officers. Learn more.

Illustration ©iStockPhoto.com

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Michael Rynowecer

Michael Rynowecer is the President and Founder of The BTI Consulting Group, an industry leader in conducting independent research on how clients acquire, manage and evaluate their professional services providers. He has been conducting client feedback and analyzing the legal market for 30 years. Michael blogs about legal industry news, insights from original research and the market outlook at The MadClientist. Follow him on Twitter @BTIConsulting.

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