This is the second post in a multi-part series designed to explore how the legal market is changing and introduce you to some of the job options it presents for future law graduates. We’ve already taken a look at opportunities that have arisen with the emergence of new technology. Next up: a few practice areas that are not only hot at the moment, but are also likely to maintain a strong presence in the market well into the future.
Legalized marijuana is a rapidly growing industry, with an increasing number of states regulating its use for medical and/or recreational use. And just like the old smoke/fire adage, we all know that where there are regulations, there are lawyers. Opportunities to specialize in this area can be found in both small, boutique law firms and BigLaw, but what exactly does a so-called cannabis attorney do?
Neil Juneja, a registered patent attorney and the founder of Gleam Law, a cannabis-focused law firm, provides a comprehensive overview of this interesting, but mine-filled career path. He notes, “Marijuana law, like entertainment law, is an amalgamation of other practice areas, including business law, administrative law, intellectual property, criminal law, employment law, and tax law.” The fact that your clients are running a business operation centered around a substance that is still illegal federally presents some especially complicated tax and criminal liability issues (for both of you). It’s imperative that you fully examine all of the potential risks before jumping into this practice area. If you’re the kind of person who finds excitement in the challenges and opportunities inherent in being at the forefront of a new industry (especially one of this nature), marijuana law might be a good fit for you.
In addition to its current status as the nation’s largest employer, the healthcare industry is also one of the most heavily regulated, so it’s no surprise that it presents a lot of opportunities for those in the legal profession. Healthcare lawyers can be found in specialized practice groups within large or mid-sized firms, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, senior care facilities, insurance companies, government agencies, legislative bodies, professional associations, think tanks, and other non-profits. The types of issues healthcare attorneys handle will, of course, vary depending on the setting, but might include regulatory compliance (think HIPAA), general corporate matters, risk management, bioethics, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, or policy issues like healthcare reform.
Alan Meisel, director of the health law certificate program at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, once said that “[o]ne of the nicknames for the Affordable Care Act is the ‘Lawyers Full Employment Act,’” because it presents so many potential legal issues. As the healthcare system continues to evolve, new problems and opportunities for lawyers will emerge.” The ever-changing nature of the industry and issues encountered can be challenging, but it’s also one of the things that draws many attorneys to this area of the law.
Elder law focuses on the rights and needs of the elderly population in an effort to ensure their autonomy, safety, and well-being. It encompasses financial planning, estate planning and administration, Medicare and Medicaid claims/appeals, and long-term care planning, but also adult guardianships and elder abuse and fraud. Elder law attorneys have the good fortune of being specialists, but also practicing in a remarkably diverse area. Many work in law firms, but there are opportunities in non-profits and government as well. PSJD is a great place to search for potential employers and jobs in this area within the public interest sector.
You might be wondering what makes this practice area so hot. To put it simply, the population of older adults is rapidly increasing. The pool of potential clients is growing exponentially as the Baby Boomer generation (born between 1946 and 1964) retires in droves at a rate of 10,000 a day. The U.S. Census projects that by 2030, more than 20 percent of the population will be 65 and over. It can be incredibly rewarding to help meet the needs of some of the most vulnerable members of society.
Practicing in this area requires specialized skills, knowledge, and sensitivities, and tends to be a good fit for those who excel at and enjoy building strong relationships. There are a lot of good resources out there if you’re interested in this career path, but one in particular that I would recommend is the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, which offers student memberships at a deeply discounted rate.
For more helpful advice on legal careers, check out these additional resources.
- Podcast Episode 70: How to Decide What Type of Law to Practice
- Podcast Episode 101: Preparing for a Career in Public interest Law (with Ashley Matthews of Equal Justice Works)
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