The Legal Trends Your Top Clients Face

It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. ― Yogi Berra

The most accurate part of making predictions is how people can always be counted on to make predictions. People predict the weather, the outcome of stories and, right now, the presidential election—often with heated passion.

Predicting future legal markets may seem like it invokes less emotion than predicting the 2016 election. Not true. My discussions with law firm leaders, partners and corporate counsel suggest these closeted futurists have many predictions—passionate predictions—about what to expect. As tough as predictions are to make, everyone exercises their right to make them.

The BTI Consulting Group combines its own research, based on in-depth interviews with 300 or more corporate counsel in each of the last 15 years, with key trends to see where the legal market is headed.

We see these new areas of law emerging and likely to grow within three to five years:

DNA-Based Drugs

Diagnostic labs and life sciences companies are betting big on personalized medicine. Some companies plan to offer custom drugs designed for an individual’s DNA. The companies and their investors are looking for strategies to protect and use the drugs and processes when a core component of the drug (a patient’s DNA) is not their property. In addition, these same companies are thinking about litigation arising from unintended and unexpected outcomes.

Food

Food companies already spend triple the amount a typical company spends on litigation. The food industry sits at the epicenter of GMOs, an extended and complex supply chain, and more performance- and health-based ingredients. Food companies expect challenges and claims from new ingredients and use of GMOs.

Food companies expect a continued increase in mergers, joint ventures, licensing and patent protection as the food chain continues to reinvent ingredients and offerings.

Genetically Modified Organisms

Expect a broad range of litigation to develop—especially along the lines of class actions and mass torts—for unintended, unforeseen consequences. Corporate counsel also expect IP litigation, including patent infringement, to crop up. The demand for regulatory analysis, lobbying and counsel will grow substantially.

The growth will be driven by biotech, life sciences, pharmaceuticals and chemicals. Look for substantial growth in agriculture and throughout the food industry supply chain.

Global Regulations

Clients are looking for globally coordinated regulatory strategies and compliance efforts. This area of law includes regulatory advice and counsel, lobbying and government relations. Clients want one central source against which they can monitor their business, product development and compliance. Like other emerging service areas, success will require deep understanding of clients’ business.

New and Growing Opportunities for Getting Hired

The hiring process in these new and growing practices will be different from the past. Each of these new practices poses large-scale legal and business risk. Corporate counsel are under mounting pressure to define the business risk along with the legal. This pressure to define business risk is driving corporate counsel to first look for attorneys who understand the nature of the business. Then and only then, will these corporate counsel consider other factors.

The law firms that can demonstrate deep business understanding will have first access to these growing practices. The winning law firms also will have a penchant for mapping out new areas of law and legislation. But in the end, the new practices are becoming more complex and pose more risk. This is good news for law firms’ economics—and good news for law firms who talk to their clients on a regular and systematic basis, as these firms are best positioned for the new business.

Click here for the full article in Law Practice Today to see where our client-centric crystal ball shows the most growth for established key practices in 2016.