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6 Hot Legal Practice Areas in California – 2017
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Summary: BCG Attorney Search has released a report of the hottest and weakest practice areas in the 2017 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.


California is the land of Hollywood, Silicon Valley, beaches, mountains, and almost 39 million residents. For attorneys, it is also a great place to find lateral jobs, depending on their speciality.

This month, Harrison Barnes of BCG Attorney Search released an analysis of the American legal market. BCG Attorney Search places thousands of lawyers in jobs around the country, and Barnes used the company’s hiring data from 2016 to examine legal trends. He found that law firms were mostly interested in hiring specialist attorneys over generalists, and he noticed that certain practice areas were strong in certain jurisdictions. In California, for instance, the hottest practice areas were litigation, employment, healthcare, immigration, trusts and estates, and technology transactions.


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In law firms, almost 40% of attorneys are litigators; and outside of that world, there are numerous solo practitioners, government attorneys, and other litigation attorneys. Last year, BCG had a good year placing litigators and getting them interviews, but Barnes said that this is not an indicator that the lateral market for this area is thriving. Instead, BCG found most of its success by helping litigators move into smaller law firms outside of major cities.

In California, Barnes said that litigator hiring was busy. BCG saw growth all year in smaller law firms in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County. The Bay Area however was slow.


Barnes described the lateral hiring market for employment attorneys as “very vibrant,” and in 2015 and 2016, the West Coast was the most active market in the country for these types of attorneys. Notably most of the placements were with specialist employment law firms, law firms outside of major markets, and smaller law firms.

“The reasons for the growth in employment-related work could be numerous,” Barnes said. “Historically, employment is a practice area that is busy during recessionary conditions when there are lawsuits and threats of lawsuits. Work can also be generated during good economies when employers are seeking advice and counseling from their attorneys.”


Healthcare was a very active practice area last year all over the country for attorneys of all levels. Barnes said that this trend will continue in 2017 because of likely changes to the Affordable Care Act.

“Senior attorneys with no business, junior attorneys, attorneys from the government transitioning back into private practice all were getting interviews and jobs. The market was the best it has ever been,” Barnes said. “Assuming that even more changes in healthcare law are coming down the pipeline in 2017, this is likely to be a very active practice area in 2017 as well.”


Immigration is a niche practice area that is increasingly becoming more in demand, and in California, it’s a hot market.

“Immigration has become a healthy practice area on both coasts,” Barnes said. “In fact, many large law firms have gotten into this “niche” practice area and are staying busy doing the work. This has become an excellent practice area despite the fact that there are a limited number of opportunities in it. There are a dearth of attorneys at the “high end” with experience from well-regarded law firms and good law school credentials.”


The area of trust and estates should experience growth, Barnes said. West Coast law firms have a number of openings and are interested in hiring laterally.

“Most of the opportunities for laterals tend to be midlevel to senior trust and estates attorneys who are taking over and assisting with “legacy practices” of attorneys who are getting senior and ready to retire at law firms around the country,” Barnes said.


For attorneys with good law firm pedigrees, finding lateral work in the technology transaction field is easy as there are a fair number of openings in Silicon Valley. Barnes predicts that this practice area will continue to grow this year.


Do you agree or disagree with this list? Let us know in the comments below.


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