Expanding Opportunities in the Legal Profession
Law school graduates, current law students, and aspiring legal professionals have reason to be optimistic. The evolving legal landscape has opened up numerous avenues for growth. Law firms and corporate legal departments are actively increasing their workforce to meet the rising demand.
According to a 2019 survey conducted by Robert Half Legal Consulting Solutions, 54% of law firms were planning to expand their legal teams. While the initial onset of the pandemic resulted in a temporary dip in demand for lawyers due to economic uncertainty, 2021 witnessed an overall increase in demand. This upward trend is expected to continue in 2022, albeit at a more moderate pace.
However, the biggest challenge for law firms lies in attracting and retaining talented individuals. In an increasingly competitive market, firms must navigate burnout concerns and address shifting perspectives on work-life balance. In this article, we explore the job outlook for lawyers in 2022.
Is Law School a Worthwhile Investment?
Investing time and money in law school offers excellent opportunities for developing legal knowledge and preparing for a career as a lawyer. However, the decision to pursue a law degree depends on individual goals, both personal and professional.
Attending law school can be expensive, with the average annual cost of attending a public, out-of-state law school reaching $41,143. Private schools cost approximately $9,000 more. Elite private law schools may incur even higher expenses. Additionally, students must factor in living costs. Since full-time law students have limited time due to busy schedules and heavy workloads, they often cannot work part-time. Consequently, they may graduate with significant debts, with the average student loan debt across all degree areas standing at $145,000, according to the National Center for Education.
However, the introduction of part-time online law classes in many institutions has allowed students to work full-time while pursuing their legal education. Although a law degree doesn’t guarantee substantial pay immediately, most law graduates eventually earn significantly higher salaries. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for lawyers in 2020 was $126,930. Certain legal fields, such as health, corporate, academia, and intellectual property, may offer even higher wages, especially in the private sector.
A Rise in Law School Enrollments
Recent data from the American Bar Association reveals a nearly 12% increase in first-year students enrolling in law school programs. This unexpected surge follows months of speculation about the impact of COVID-19 on entry-level hiring for college graduates. Several factors likely contributed to this rise, including legal discussions surrounding the 2020 presidential election, the events surrounding George Floyd’s death, and the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. These events stimulated public conversations about law and the roles of judges and lawyers. The surge in demand for lawyers may have also played a significant role in the increased law school enrollment, further fueling this trend.
The Law School Admission Council reported a 13% increase in law school program applications last fall, representing the largest year-over-year jump since 2002.
High-Demand Legal Fields in 2022
The job market for lawyers in 2022 is expected to be highly competitive as legal departments and law firms shift their focus from pandemic survival to long-term growth. One significant challenge faced by hiring managers is the scarcity of talent. Let’s explore the areas of law that are currently in high demand:
Litigation remains one of the most crucial aspects of the legal profession, encompassing the preparation and execution of lawsuits. Within the realm of intellectual property law and labor & employment law, the need for litigation lawyers is particularly pronounced.
2. Commercial Law
Commercial lawyers contribute to businesses in various ways, from handling contracts to resolving marketing disputes. This field is expanding due to the rise of new business developments and marketing conflicts. There is also a growing demand for experts in virtual currency law, which deals with regulations surrounding cryptocurrency taxes, policies, and sales, as well as online gambling companies. Given the significant fluctuations in cryptocurrency values, the market experiences constant upheaval, necessitating more lawyers to manage compliance with evolving regulations and tackle related individual cases.
3. Intellectual Property Law
As new technologies like music and film streaming platforms emerge, the demand for protecting copyrights, trademarks, and patents continues to grow. Litigation and compliance activities within this specialty also experience steady growth.
4. Family Law
Family law encompasses various domestic issues, including marriage, divorce, adoption, juvenile offenses, and child protection. These cases often intersect with immigration and naturalization law.
5. Immigration & Naturalization Law
Immigration and naturalization law involve facilitating the arrival of foreign citizens in the United States for work and residence purposes, as well as the process of becoming a United States citizen. With the ongoing shifts in federal and state immigration policies, the impact on families, economies, and courts is substantial, leading to a high demand for lawyers specializing in this area.
6. Real Estate Law
Real estate lawyers assist individuals and companies in buying, selling, developing, renting, and using land and property. The fluctuations in the housing market and increased urban development have created numerous employment opportunities for lawyers interested in transactional and planning legal work.
7. Contract Management
Contract managers play a critical role across various sectors of the economy, overseeing the creation, execution, termination, and renewal of contracts between parties. This field is popular among lawyers seeking a good work-life balance, as much of the work can be conducted remotely.
Compliance work is relevant to almost every industry and sector, ensuring adherence to government guidelines specific to each field. Complex and evolving regulations continually generate demand for lawyers who can support policy and compliance programs.
9. Labor and Employment
The vast array of regulations governing employer-employee relationships, including union matters, contracts, wages, safety, benefits, and workers’ rights, necessitates the involvement of numerous legal professionals. Currently, there is a growing need for expertise in areas such as the Family Medical Leave Act, parental leave, wages, and classification. These cases often result in litigation, further contributing to the field’s growth.
10. Corporate Transactions
Mergers and acquisitions (M&A), or corporate transactions, involve the buying and selling of companies and their assets. Employers seeking professionals in this area typically require mid-level lawyers with three to five years of experience. Contract drafting and management play a significant role in M&A transactions due to the intricate nature of the agreements.
The Future of the Legal Industry
Looking ahead, law firms will need to consider a new factor during negotiations – remote work. Alongside salary and benefits, an increasing number of job candidates will likely inquire about the possibility of working remotely, either partially or entirely. Law firms must assess the productivity of their employees in both remote and office environments.
Pursue Your Law Degree at St. Francis Law School
Are you considering pursuing a law degree? The St. Francis School of Law offers an exceptional online JD program distinguished by high levels of student-faculty interaction. With a low student-faculty ratio, we provide tailored instruction and personalized attention to all our students.
If you’re ready to embark on your journey to law school, our admissions team is ready to assist you. Contact us to learn more about the program offerings at the St. Francis School of Law.