Projected growth in legal careers is a crucial consideration for both aspiring and current law students. Those currently working toward or planning to pursue a degree in the legal profession will, of course, want to be aware of which law practice areas are in demand so they can be prepared to make well-informed career planning decisions. An understanding of legal hiring trends and potential for employment opportunities can set law students up for success while leaving them feeling confidently equipped to make important choices surrounding their education and long-term career prospects.
Read on to discover how legal hiring trends have evolved over the past few years, what elements have played an influential role and other factors that are expected to shape legal career opportunities in 2024 and beyond.
The Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on the Legal Industry
The legal profession, like every other industry, was shaken by the COVID-19 pandemic. At the onset, many legal proceedings came to a halt, prompting law firms to respond by scaling back their workforce. However, as the world began to gradually reopen and court hearings resumed, the legal sector witnessed a resurgence in hiring within specific fields, coupled with emerging growth opportunities across diverse practice areas.
Following is a list of legal practice fields that have maintained consistent hiring since the pandemic and are anticipated to experience continued growth:
- Bankruptcy: The pandemic significantly accelerated bankruptcy filings, as both individuals and businesses continue to grapple with its financial repercussions. As small businesses were forced to close and individuals remained unemployed, their cases will occupy an increasingly larger portion of court dockets. In 2023, U.S. bankruptcies continued to surge with a reported 18% year-over-year increase. Experts anticipate a continued rise in these figures throughout 2024, attributing the trend not only to the ongoing financial impacts of the pandemic but also to factors such as heightened interest rates, stricter lending criteria and rising household debt levels.
- Family Law: After stay-at-home orders were enacted, there was a noticeable uptick of divorce and domestic violence cases. These types of legal proceedings tend to be intricate and prolonged, especially when children are involved. This complexity arises from the need to negotiate custody, visitation rights and financial settlements. It is projected that the demand in this legal area will continue to rise in 2024.
- Housing: During the pandemic, a federal eviction moratorium was put into place to help ensure individuals and families could retain their residences despite financial difficulties. According to US Census data, while in effect, the moratorium was instrumental in averting approximately 1.5 million evictions. Once these protections were lifted in summer of 2022, eviction rates rose temporarily in certain U.S. cities, which subsequently subsided over the course of a few months. However, as rents and mortgage rates continue to escalate in 2024, the field of housing law is expected to remain an active field with high demand.
- Employment Law: The unforeseen short- and long-term economic repercussions of COVID-19 have led many businesses and employees to seek judicial resolution to settle employment-related disputes. In addition, with several new federal and state-level laws surrounding employment slated to go into effect in 2024, HR professionals will likely be reliant on legal expertise and counsel to ensure their companies adhere to these evolving regulations.
- Litigation Practice: Because many trials were postponed, many law firms downsized at the start of the pandemic. However, as courts have started to re-open, these firms have found themselves in urgent need of expanding their teams to manage the growing caseload. Litigation law typically experiences what is described as a “peak-and-valley cycle.” Experts in the field anticipate that 2024 will witness a significant boom in demand for services in this legal practice area.
2020: A Year of Influential Geopolitical and Social Events
2020 was certainly a momentous year with the presidential election, social movements and protests in the United States. This has led individuals and organizations to be more vocal in expressing their passions and calling for change. Therefore, we also expect to see continued growth in the focus on:
- Election Law: This area gained a lot of attention recently as various states have made changes to their voting processes. As we enter an election year in 2024, this legal practice area remains more relevant than ever.
- Public Interest: Growing social movements mean more work for the public interest law sectors. They will likely continue to hire to support efforts concerning gaps in the justice system, as well as supporting those in need.
A Look at the future: Emerging Legal Practice Areas in 2024 & Beyond
In addition to the anticipated growth trends in the practice areas described above, there are several other promising legal careers opportunities for the following emerging sectors in 2024:
- Labor Law: Many key factors have led to a surge in the demand for labor law this year. Some of the most prominent factors include job shortages, a massive influx in quitting throughout 2021 and 2022 and increasing nationwide demands for better pay and working conditions.
- Cybersecurity: As technology continues to grow and evolve at a rapid pace, the need for laws surrounding cybersecurity is at an all-time high. The mass development and public availability of Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools has played a large role in this rising demand as well.
Tips For Law School Students and Graduates
As the legal landscape is constantly shifting, it’s impossible to predict with complete certainty what legal practice area will be in demand 12 months from now. With that in mind, here are some general tips for California law school graduates preparing to enter the workforce.
- Stay agile: While you might have entered law school with a specific passion or focus, be open to applying your skills in areas where there is more of a need for your talents. Taking on various opportunities can look good on your resume and highlight your diverse skills and experience as a future employee.
- Be flexible: While a full-time position is ideal, remember that some law firms are looking for short-term or project-based support. Be open to accepting these opportunities as they can open the door for full-time work and also give you practical experience while you continue to look for and land your dream job.
- Prepare for a new type of interview: Even though some interviews are still virtual, prepare for them the same way you would if it were in person. This includes practicing for a Zoom interview by focusing on such things as looking at the camera and ensuring your outfit and background are professional.
- Network: Even though some law firms might not be hiring, continue to reach out to those you have connections with and build more personal ties with individuals at the firms you are interested in working for. For further tips on networking, visit our blog: Networking Tips to Land Your Ideal Job.
While it’s difficult to predict where the growth opportunities for legal careers will be with full accuracy, taking advantage of the ones that are presented to you can result in gaining necessary experience and open new doors for future jobs. Contact Career Services for more information, or for support in preparing your resume or getting ready for an interview.