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What Types of Attorneys Got the Most Lateral Jobs in 2016?
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Summary: BCG Attorney Search has released its annual State of the American Legal Market.

Read the full report by Harrison Barnes here: The BCG Attorney Search 2017 State of the American Lateral Law Firm Legal Market Report.


This month, BCG Attorney Search published its State of the Market Report, which covers the major trends in legal placements for 2016 and 2017. The leading national legal placement firm analyzed the number of attorneys it placed by the lawyers’ practice area, and it discovered that the niche market was excelling.

“It is entirely possible that 2017 may be one of the better legal markets on record—comparable with the previous boom years of 1999 and 2005-2006: We saw more interviews and placements in the last three months of the year than we have in the last three months of any year since 2006,” BCG Attorney Search CEO Harrison Barnes said. “However, what is odd about the current legal market is that while it is very good, it is being led by “niche” practice areas to a great extent.”

In 2016, the highest percentage of attorneys that were placed practiced Corporate (17.86%), Litigation (17.79%), or Intellectual Property-Patent-Hard and Life Sciences (11.34%). Barnes stated that Corporate and Litigation were stable practice areas, but that IP-Patent-Hard and Life Sciences was weakening, despite its third place ranking on the list.

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“Patent prosecution work went down significantly in 2016 and shows no signs of letting up in 2017,” Barnes said. “Where patent attorneys were once hard-to-find and rare commodities in the market, they are now quite common. Patent attorneys are still marketable, of course, but there are fewer and fewer jobs. More and more law firms are requiring that their patent attorneys have advanced degrees—including Ph.D.’s—and thus the barrier to entry is getting higher and higher.”

Employment (8.36%), Real Estate (7.52%), ESIRA/Executive Compensation (6.6%), Bankruptcy (4.3%), Healthcare (3.85%), Tax (2.78%), and Intellectual Property-Litigation (2.36%) rounded out the top ten most popular practice areas, based on the number of job placements last year.

Barnes noted that there was a boom with law firms seeking Employment and ESIRA/Executive Compensation attorneys, and that this increase corresponds with the country’s economic health. During times of good economies, the demand for Employment attorneys increases because companies seek legal advice, and Barnes stated that the majority of BCG’s Employment placements were in smaller law firms outside of major markets. Also because of the economy, more law firms want attorneys who specialize in compliance, which is why there was such a demand for ESIRA/Executive Compensation lawyers.

Just as the economy can affect the legal market, so does the political climate. Because Republicans have won power of the White House and Congress, there is anticipation of possible changes to the Affordable Care Act. This has resulted in a demand for attorneys with expertise in Healthcare laws.

Bankruptcy, which ranked seventh, is a stable practice area, but Real Estate, which was ranked fifth, is a field in trouble and “likely to get worse,” according to Barnes.

“The falloff in real estate work in 2016 was quite significant. In 2015, real estate comprised the second most popular practice area for placements (after corporate) and in 2016 it was tied for fourth place with ERISA/Executive Compensation. In every sense, real estate took a hit,” Barnes said. “From New York to Los Angeles, real estate attorneys saw less work than they had the previous year and had a difficult time getting interviews and offers. The market was not in good shape at all.”

Lastly, Tax and Intellectual Property- Litigation, which ranked ninth and tenth respectively, are said to be sick or dying areas, despite last year’s numbers. Barnes stated that tax has not been active in the past several years, and that there are too many attorneys for the few available positions. Litigation attorneys are having a difficult time in general, but IP lawyers especially are hurting because of the Supreme Court’s recent decision in regards to Alice Corp. v. CLS Bank International (2014), which held “that certain business methods, previously thought to be patentable, are not.” That ruling has made it hard for patent trolls to file lawsuits, which have resulted in less work for IP-Litigators.





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