Competition for openings at top law firms is fierce. Add in geographic and practice constraints, and even top law school grads may face an uphill challenge when it comes to landing their dream job. Choosing a legal specialty that’s in high demand can increase your earning potential and expand your future employment opportunities.

Whether you’re currently in law school or a recent graduate looking to transition to a new firm, consider these three in-demand specialty practice fields:

  1. Healthcare

Healthcare is a booming industry that’s providing plenty of opportunities for professionals in various lines of work, including the legal field. As more Baby Boomers enter retirement and face increased health challenges, everyone from government agencies to hospitals are looking to hire lawyers with healthcare specialties like elder care law and Medicare fraud.

President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress have also begun to take action on the pledge to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Even small changes to ACA will result in increased compliance-related legal work, and a complete repeal could keep healthcare lawyers busy well into 2018. Finally, lawyers with expertise navigating hot-button legal issues like embryonic stem cell research are also in top demand.

  1. Intellectual Property

Thanks to our knowledge-based economy, intellectual property (IP) law is one of the fastest growing legal specialties. Patent attorneys typically land starting salaries that are $10,000 to $15,000 more than first and second-year associate positions in other practice fields according to US News & World Report. This trend is expected to continue into 2017.

IP lawyers may further specialize by industry. In the pharmaceutical industry, for example, drug manufacturers need patent lawyers with specialized knowledge of this heavily regulated industry to manage ongoing patent litigation.

Geographic location can also impact the demand for specialty IP lawyers. IP lawyers are in high-demand in startup-friendly locales like the Bay Area, where startups need ongoing legal support sorting out complex patent, trademark and copyright issues.

  1. Corporate and Securities

Thanks to a favorable real estate market, more private equity firms are forming and experiencing growth. Lawyers who specialize in corporate and securities law help these firms – as well as businesses in all industries – navigate corporate structure, taxes, contracts and other issues over the lifetime of the business. Nearly every large legal firm will have clients to serve in this area, making this specialty field a smart bet for continued demand and growth.

Next Steps: Gaining Specialty Expertise in Law School

If you’re a law school student, you can gain a competitive edge and increase your appeal to prospective employers by focusing on a specialty practice area. In addition to choosing electives that focus on these in-demand fields, look for summer associate positions that will give you greater hands-on exposure. Whether you’re considering a summer associate position or a full-time offer, make sure you understand the full scope of your prospective firm’s specialties and which ones you’ll have the opportunity to pursue.


Have you seen an uptick in demand in any other specialty practice areas? Share you thoughts in the comment section below.