Gillman Market Barometer

Updated January 2024

Lawyer well-being is a big deal.

In January, I attended the Institute for Well-Being in Law’s conference with 700 others – there was a lot of great information highlighting how important well-being is becoming.

Lawyer burnout, stress, health issues, and even suicide are hot topics.

Law firms are taking notice, and many are working to create non-toxic cultures and retain their people. Some examples this month include:

Maybe firms will find a new business model. But I think the opportunity for lawyers lies in building their careers for themselves.

The strong lateral market demonstrates how vital rainmakers are to law firm economics. No matter how the business model changes, I can’t imagine rainmakers not having power over their careers.  

So, I’ve been thinking: how do lawyers systematically structure their careers for happiness regardless of how law firms evolve?

And I’ve started developing the answer. Throughout my years of supporting lateral partners, I’ve discovered six pillars to lawyer happiness which surface again and again:

  • Make time for health and wellness.
  • Build a strong book of business.
  • Set boundaries.
  • Create a plan (treat yourself as a business).
  • Learn and grow (in law and about your clients).
  • Nurture your legacy.

I’m turning this into a model for be(coming) a happy rainmaker that I’ll be developing and expanding throughout the year.

I’d love to know your thoughts: how will you or have you taken control of your career? Can you relate to these pillars?

If you are working to figure out how to have a more balanced career, think about these six areas, stay tuned for more information, and remember that if you are a rainmaker, there is an exact right perfect fit firm out there for you.

Hottest Geographies at the moment:

This hasn’t changed much in the last year, and I don’t expect it to change much this year:

  • Warmer Climates
  • Lower Cost-of-Living Climates
  • Secondary Markets
  • Florida
  • Charlotte
  • Raleigh
  • New York
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Texas
  • California
  • Seattle
  • West Coast

Hottest Practice Areas

Practice areas shift more frequently than geographies; we review them monthly and update them as needed. Overall, the l market sentiment seems to be positive; the economic uncertainty that weighed on 2023 has largely melted away (for now anyway). M&A appears to be strengthening, which is a good sign for the market in general. We see lots of lateral moves and continued interest in growing firms through lateral partner hires.

Practice
Area
GaugeOpportunitiesUncertainties
Generative AI
Technology
The opportunity seems to be in creating a new practice at a law firm. But this is so new and so hot that it is hard to pin down what the opportunity is: what is clear is that AI is causing issues, and legal help is in demand.

Interesting article on how AI adoption is likely to lead to all kinds of litigation.

Cyber attacks continue to grow and reveal privacy issues. This looks like an area for growth if it is an area you are interested in pursuing.

These are things you can still learn; take a CLE course, and read this post on retooling.
Impact of AI on litigation.
Corporate / Mergers and Acquisitions/ M&A seems to be back; we’re seeing a lot of articles suggesting that M&A is strong, such as this one from law.com, this one on the private equity market, and another on M&A rebound. Economic activity/recession.
Capital MarketsCapital Markets is down all over. If you can, you may want to think about retooling into finance; even better would be debt finance as bankruptcy gets busier.
Funds Lawyers and FinanceDemand for funds lawyers are up all over; if you can retool as a funds lawyer, this is an area that is seeing sustained demand.

Finance is a little less clear: it seems that finance is holding steady.
EnergyWhile many corporate practices have been down since 2022, the energy market continues to be strong, with many deals proceeding. If you focus on a down market and are looking for opportunities, retooling for energy may be a good move.

This seems to be at least partly driven by the Inflation Reduction Act money.
The long-term impact of the Inflation Reduction Act.
Bankruptcy
Bankruptcy doesn’t seem to be as strong as we had expected; stronger markets and lower inflation may mean interest rates will come down and bankruptcies will continue but there will be less pressure.

Of course, there’s this article on how O’Melveny is expanding its bankruptcy practice.
What will happen to interest rates?
Labor and EmploymentYears ago, this was a slow and steady practice, but it heated up with the COVID shutdown. It remains hot, with employees not wanting to return to offices, layoffs with companies experiencing the recession, and general uncertainty in the labor market. The impact of the recession on the labor market.
LitigationExpecting to see an uptick in litigation because it is a counter-cyclical practice. As deals go bad, we’d expect people to sue over these deals rather than move to the next one.

We are starting to see some improvement and greater demand for litigation.

Also, many court closures created a backlog of cases, and as courts catch up, this has created demand for more litigators.
If clients experience a recession, they may not want to pursue expensive litigation. The impact of a recession, therefore, is an uncertainty.
Commercial Real EstateReal Estate is off everywhere at the moment because borrowing money is expensive, and the direction of interest rates is unclear.

Sit back, build your book of business, and be ready for the next wave.

Real Estate is not down in Florida… one of the few exceptions to the rule.
The future of interest rates.
Environmental Social And Governance (ESG) and RegulatoryRegulatory practices are strong across the board – if you feel that your practice is threatened, look for an opportunity to retool as ESG.

Here is an article on the topic, Why Financial Regulation Is Big Law’s Newest Battleground – with recent banking issues (April 2023) financial regulation experts are in demand).

Also, legal issues related to increased interest in Climate Change legislation is driving demand for environmental law experts (April 2023).
Political impact on ESG programs and future.
Intellectual PropertyBio-Tech was up at the beginning of the pandemic, and it continues to be sought after. There is a lot happening in electrical engineering, computer science, and pharma/biotech seem to be the busiest areas right now.

Patent litigation has been very busy.
Some suggestions that firms are reducing IP staff – but patents still seem very strong. (December)
Privacy and Cyber LawContinues to be very active, and sources tell us that this is an opportunity for the future.

If your corporate practice is down, consider a CLE in Healthcare.
HealthcareContinues to be very active and sources tell us that this is an opportunity for the future.

If your corporate practice is down, consider a CLE in Healthcare.
Cannabis Everybody says that there is an opportunity in the Cannabis market, but we aren’t seeing it so strongly.
LobbyingNews suggests that Lobbying is hot right now, a function of divided government and an election year… this is a good time to be a lobbyist!