areas of legal practice that thrive during the pandemic | Esquire Filing Solutions, LLC

Economist John Kenneth Galbraith has lumped all forecasters into two groups: those who don’t know what the future will bring, and those who don’t know they don’t know what the future will bring. This observation, both obvious and humiliating, does not detract from the ardor of the business community for the game of forecasting. Some predictions actually come true, and those who act on them are often generously rewarded.

Take, for example, the early predictions that certain areas of legal practice would benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, no one really knew what the impact of the virus would be on the economy or how federal and state policymakers across the country would react. Likewise, no one was sure whether social distancing requirements would control the spread of the virus, or whether personal protective equipment would be effective, or whether a vaccine could be developed.

But we know it: new laws and new social and economic arrangements always lead to an increase in litigation and demand for legal services. New laws bring new compliance obligations. Economic stress triggers an increase in trade disputes. And any change in the status quo forces a recalibration of business risk and triggers a courthouse race to sort out blame for unforeseen business and personal losses.

It is ironic that a profession known for its resistance to change is, in fact, one of the main beneficiaries of changing and difficult times. This is again the case with COVID-19

Litigators and labor attorneys are busy now

At the start of 2020, there was a broad consensus that different areas of legal practice would see increased demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The American Bar Association’s Task Force on Legal Needs Arising from the 2020 Pandemic interviewed several hundred lawyers in May 2020 regarding the changes COVID-19 would have in substantive legal areas (PDF). Respondents at the time had predicted an increase in demand for lawyers to deal with employment issues, insurance coverage disputes, estate planning, bankruptcies, housing issues and l assistance under the CARES Act.

McKinsey & Co. predict a favorable deal climate for litigants, emphasizing that historically, during economic downturns, litigation practices have largely exceeded transactional law practices.

According to legal recruiter Robert Half International, the COVID-19 pandemic will generate increased demand for these practice areas: litigation, contracts, cybersecurity / privacy, and healthcare.

So how prescient were these forecasters? Very premonitory, as it turns out. The following areas of legal practice have all responded to forecasts of an increase in demands for legal services related to COVID-19.

Insurance litigation

It was easy. The insurance industry, which mitigates risk based on consensus assessments of foreseeable events and business conditions, was shaken overnight by COVID-19 as everyone – businesses and consumers – scanned its insurance policies to relieve losses related to COVID-19.

The most recent report from the Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor Index, a widely consulted metrics source for law firm activity, indicated that litigation practices increased by 7.7% from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021.

For the most part, insurers were successful in defeating new coverage claims stemming from the pandemic – particularly business interruption claims, which threatened to flood the industry. However, there are signs that plaintiffs’ litigation strategies – like the virus itself – are evolving in ways that make them less vulnerable to dismissal motions. Insurance Journal recently reported on a case in North Carolina in which the the trial judge refused to summarily dismiss an application for business interruption insurance based on the argument that COVID-19 caused “damage to the air” breathed by employees and patients of the Applicant. Most business interruption claims have failed due to the absence of physical damage to the insured’s premises, a requirement for coverage under business interruption insurance policies.

Work and employment

It didn’t take much of a crystal ball to anticipate an increase in demand for the services of employment law advisers and litigators to help deal with workplace issues during the pandemic. COVID-19 has overturned conventional expectations regarding almost every aspect of the employer-employee relationship: wage and schedule rules, remote working arrangements, illness, disability, productivity, discrimination and promotion, to name a few facets of life. professional rich in disputes that have been strongly impacted by COVID-19.

Every day, it seems like a new legal claim is germinating from fertile COVID-19 soil. Last month in Pennsylvania, a federal trial court ruled that a woman terminated her job allegedly because she contracted COVID-19 had declared a valid complaint for discrimination “considered disabled” under the Americans with Disabilities Act. The legal question in the case was whether COVID-19 is a minor, transient illness like the common cold or the flu (in which case it is not a disability), or whether COVID-19 is in fact a disability protected by the ADA. The case is Matias v. Terrapin House, n ° 5: 21-cv-02288 (ED Pa. September 16, 2021).

During the one-year period from the first quarter of 2020 to the first quarter of 2021, labor and employment law practice groups grew 5.7%, again according to the latest Thomson Reuters Peer Monitor index.

Trusts and Estates

Many legal industry observers have predicted increased demand for estate planning attorneys’ services during COVID-19, and so far have been. This area of ​​practice has undoubtedly benefited from the increased awareness of the general public about mortality during the pandemic, the willingness of the legal profession to serve its clients outside of its physical offices, as well as the enactment of laws allowing the remote notarization and certification of testamentary deeds.

Law firm management software provider Themis Solutions Inc. (Clio) has been questioning lawyers since the pandemic began in early 2020. Briefing on research on the impact of COVID-19, dated September 16, reports a constant increase in the number of “wills and inheritance” cases during the summer of 2021. The other high-performance areas of expertise identified by Clio were real estate and intellectual property.

Cyber ​​security

COVID-19 has given additional impetus to the growth of cybersecurity and data privacy practices – areas that were on a growth trajectory before the pandemic. As predicted, the rapid rise of ubiquitous remote working arrangements, along with the increased use of digital technologies to reach and serve customers, have made cybersecurity and privacy law specialists a commodity of choice in 2021.

Earlier this year, legal consultancy Firm Prospects LLC told Law360 that the pandemic has prompted law firms to increase their staff in their practice groups on data privacy, bankruptcy, telecommunications and antitrust practices.

Other areas of practice in demand

Other areas of legal practice currently in demand due to COVID-19 are defense against white collar crime, healthcare (especially groups with expertise from the Food and Drug Administration), mergers and acquisitions, and finally restructuring and bankruptcy practices.

Lateral Link, a legal talent recruitment service, recently reported a very hot job market in Washington, DC, for bankruptcy litigators, employment lawyers, cybersecurity lawyers and healthcare lawyers.

Take the chance

What can law firms do to meet the increased demand for these types of legal services? First, law firms can hire attorneys who have in-demand legal skills related to COVID. Obviously, this is already happening. A second strategy is to “upgrade the skills” of existing staff. Invest in education now – whether it is a CLE training from a bar or a formal degree from a university – will develop the necessary expertise to serve current and future clients. Investments in technology will also play a role in reaching clients who are new to digital-only or primarily digital legal service offerings.

Finally, lawyers should seriously consider making changes to their website, directory, and social media listings to let potential clients know they have the capacity to provide legal services for COVID-related issues. 19. According to Firm Prospects, the number of attorneys mentioning “bankruptcy” in their professional biographies increased by only 47 occurrences in a recent survey, while the number of attorneys mentioning “restructuring” jumped by 506 during the same period.

Small changes like these capitalize on the fact that while hiring can be a slow and deliberate process, selection decisions are often made in a hurry – in many cases with the help of software. keyword research. Even a small change in a professional biography will capture the interest of potential clients and employers.

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