Three months into 2022, Gorilla Jobs takes a look at the state of the legal sector and practice areas where legal jobs are likely to further grow.
In recent years, Thomson Reuters has been producing an invaluable “State of the Legal Sector Market Report”. Their most recent report, published in the spring of 2021, offered insight into how the legal sector was weathering the pandemic.
And the news was mostly good – the legal sector saw profits grow to record highs in FY2021, with average profit as a percentage of revenue up 36.8%, on the back of greater demand, slight rate growth and reduced expenses.
It also pointed to the move to remote working as offering those in legal jobs more flexibility and balance, reflected in greater efficiency.
Legal job areas that grew
A year earlier, back in August 2020, the College of Lawidentified six areas of law where it saw practitioners “busier than ever” despite the downturn so many other parts of the economy faced.
The six areas that had seen upturns all had direct correlations to the pandemic:
Family law (due to increased tensions and pressures for families)
Employment law (linked to pandemic-related redundancies and compliance)
Restructuring and insolvency (for businesses forced to drive down costs and try and remain afloat with greatly reduced revenues)
Regulatory (less related to the pandemic and more to the rolling range of royal commissions Australia has had in recent times)
Cyber expertise and security (linked to the move to working from home [WFH] and the need to be able to do this securely)
Alternative dispute resolution (particularly online mediation required due to the inability to have face to face mediation during the pandemic)
Fast forward a year, and the wider move to WFH saw some similarities to the College of Law findings but also some notable shifts.
Demand for employment and workplace relations lawyers to help corporate Australia navigate the rolling changes it faced around WFH and COVID-19 safety compliance remained strong. But other parts of the legal sector also saw upwards movement of partners, with the top five:
Employment and workplace safety
Property and real estate
Mergers and acquisitions
Litigation and dispute resolution
Looking ahead: Growing legal job sectors
While it’s obvious that the past two years’ worth of trends in the legal sector job growth must be viewed through the prism of the COVID pandemic, looking forward there are other interesting trends in where the legal sector jobs are likely to grow. Here are four aspects of legal practice to keep an eye on.
1. Anything to do with tech
It may sound like a no-brainer, but at a time when the digital world is impossible to disconnect from, this area of legal practice can only grow, and then some.
The kinds of issues lawyers in the tech space are likely to need to focus on are cybersecurity, privacy, liability arising from the use of smart technology or AI, the increasing use of drones and intellectual property (with a good example being the huge interest recently in non-fungible tokens or NFTs).
Even as the pandemic (hopefully) recedes or at least becomes endemic, the workplace looks to have undergone one of the biggest structural shifts in decades in the movement to WFH.
Add in the ‘the great resignation’ of 2021 and sharp drops in unemployment levels across the globe due to labour shortages, and employment law will continue to be in sharp focus and greater demand.
Climate change and the growing acceptance of what this means for the planet is leading to an ever-growing focus on regulation and governance.
From sustainability to waste to energy creation and provision, more companies and individuals, as well as all levels of government, will require legal assistance to navigate this constantly evolving aspect of our lives.
The pandemic aside, an ageing population that lives longer, and biotech and pharmaceutical industries that are providing new and advanced ways to manage health better, all means that the health sector will continue to grow rapidly but also throw up new and complicated legal issues around the provision of health and health-related services.
An ageing population that lives longer also means there will be an increase in legal issues around retirement, guardianship, estate planning and long-term care, amongst others.
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