Byte of Prevention Blog

by Jay Reeves |

Four Practice Areas That Bring the Biggest Bucks

dollar signsIf you’re looking for the big bucks after law school, you should consider a practice area where a single case can involve hundreds of court appearances, mountains of documents and last for a decade or longer.

We’re talking about complex litigation: a world of mass torts, defective products and multi-jurisdictional warfare – and astronomical attorney fees as well.

In 1998, for instance, the lead firm for the plaintiffs in the Minnesota Big Tobacco Litigation raked in a fee award of $440 million as part of a $6.6 billion settlement.

Examples like this make complex litigation one of the four most lucrative areas of practice, according to this source. The other three are:

  • Corporate Law
  • Intellectual Property
  • Healthcare Law

“There are, of course, many variables you should consider as you shape your legal career, including intellectual interests, job availability, lifestyle issues and more,” writes legal headhunter Sarah Garvey at Law Crossing. “But if receiving a big paycheck is important to you, these four practice areas deserve a hard look.”

Let’s consider three skills that will help you crack into each of these hotbeds – as well as one tool that will give you an edge when you get there.

Complex Litigation

According to one survey, attorneys on both sides of complex litigation are paid 18 percent more than their peers.

  • Three skills for success: (1) Legal analysis. A knack for parsing thorny issues of fact, substantive law and civil procedure. The better you are at legal research and critical analysis, the more likely a firm will want you on their team. (2) E-discovery. Knowing the rules on electronic storage, privacy and disclosure. (3) Human resources. Being able to work well with others.
  • Tool to keep sharp: Patience. Some of these cases keep going, and going, and going.

Corporate Law
“Corporate lawyers help move the wheels of commerce by assisting corporate clients with everything from drafting operating agreements and bylaws, to helping companies acquire and merge with other companies, to helping companies secure capital by issuing securities,” writes Garvey, who says top corporate salaries are eight percent higher than the median.

  • Three skills for success: (1) Business savvy. Knowing what makes a successful company tick – and what keeps it ticking. (2) M&A expertise. Understanding the arcana of Mergers and Acquisitions. (3) Bullishness. Being able to advise companies on going public, issuing stock and obtaining financing.
  • Tool to keep sharp: Money management. At a time when banking regulations are being revised and rolled back, a working knowledge of how the industry works is worth its weight in gold.

Intellectual Property

Records have been set in recent years for the number of new patent filings in federal court. All that activity has generated well-paying business for lawyers.

  • Three skills for success: (1) Tech savvy. Fluency in the language of Silicon Valley. (2) Trial advocacy. Defending or prosecuting lawsuits over intellectual property rights. (3) Science and engineering. Understanding how things work and being able to apply that knowledge to the real world.
  • Tool to keep sharp: Curiosity. Keeping up with the latest developments in science, technology and medicine – and being able to spot emerging trends – will move you to the front of the line.

Healthcare Law
No surprise here. Big changes are coming in health insurance and medical care. Lawyers who are ahead of the curve will be amply rewarded.

  • Three skills for success: (1) Legislative savvy. Being able to read and comprehend the revisions to existing law. (2) Insurance experience. Knowing your way around deductibles, policy limits and pre-existing conditions. (3) Medical training. Understanding the difference between a CAT-scan and a catheter.
  • Tool to keep sharp: Cyber-security. Confidentiality and data privacy are top concerns for patients, providers and insurers alike.

Keep in mind that even within these hot areas, salaries can fluctuate dramatically based on geography, type of firm and work experience.

What practice areas would you add to this list?



About the Author

Jay Reeves

Jay Reeves practiced law in North Carolina and South Carolina. He was Legal Editor at Lawyers Weekly and Risk Manager at Lawyers Mutual. He is the author of The Most Powerful Attorney in the World, a collection of short stories from a law life well-lived, which as the seasons pass becomes less about law and liability and more about loss, love, longing, laughter and life's lasting luminescence.

Read More by Jay >

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