The replacement of the Trump Administration by the Biden Administration will bring changes to countless areas of American life, including the legal sector. Here are a few practice areas that we at Lateral Link expect to heat up over the next few years. (Thanks to my colleague Gloria Sandrino, who previously shared her thoughts on this topic with Law360, for her help in putting this list together.)
1. White-collar, investigations, and enforcement work. White-collar prosecutions fell to a record low under President Donald Trump. Over the past two years, I’ve spoken to numerous white-collar and investigations lawyers who have had to turn to civil and commercial litigation to keep themselves busy. Law firm hiring out of government also slowed significantly; with firms struggling to keep their current white-collar lawyers busy, their appetite for former prosecutors dropped significantly.
Many industry observers expect this to change under the Biden Administration. We’ve been meeting with firms right now to discuss their talent needs for the year, and many of them expect a significant increase in SEC, DOJ, and congressional investigations. Widely reported fraud related to the Paycheck Protection Program and other pandemic relief efforts is already starting to generate work, and with the change to a Democratic administration, also look for an increase in traditional white-collar work, such as Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) investigations and prosecutions.
2. Banking and financial regulation. Related to the anticipated uptick in white-collar expect, expect an increase in banking and financial regulatory work as well. In particular, look for the new administration to reinvigorate the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) — and create work for lawyers and law firms that specialize in consumer finance regulatory matters.
3. Environmental. Even though he has been in office for just a few weeks, President Biden has already made clear that protecting the environment will be a priority for his administration, with an especially strong focus on addressing the climate change crisis. According to this overview from Hogan Lovells, look for the Biden Administration to “seek to undo many of the deregulatory actions of the Trump administration… [and] to strengthen environmental protections by adopting new standards, revising existing standards, and increasing enforcement.” The upshot: more work for environmental lawyers, especially those who advise companies trying to keep up with the new standards and to respond to investigations and enforcement actions.
4. Labor and employment. As noted in this analysis by Littler Mendelson, the close divide in the House of Representatives will limit President Biden’s ability to enact much of his agenda. But we can still expect significant changes, including changes that can be made through administrative action.
If it’s passed by Congress, President Biden’s proposed COVID-19 stimulus plan includes a number of L&E-related provisions, including extension of unemployment insurance benefits, renewal of emergency paid sick and family medical leave mandates from prior coronavirus relief packages, authorization of OSHA to develop a national COVID-19 protection standard, and an increase in the minimum wage to $15 nationwide. Companies will need legal help to respond to any number of these changes.
5. Private equity and venture capital. On the transactional side, private equity and venture capital should continue to be active areas, but with a shift in emphasis to focus on the healthcare and environmental sectors. Investment in the healthcare and life sciences space should remain robust, as the nation continues to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and its after effects, and investment in the environmental space could see a boost from President Biden’s plan to invest $2 trillion in clean energy and sustainable infrastructure, which would be a boon for the cleantech startup ecosystem. This will also generate lots of work for project finance lawyers, especially those who focus on cleantech and renewable energy.
These are just some of the sectors that could see significant growth over the next few years. Others include state attorneys general, antitrust, and healthcare practices. A change in administration often means changes in the law, and changes in the law are good news for lawyers and law firms.
If you’re thinking about what you can do with your career to take advantage of these developments, please feel free to reach out to me or any of my colleagues to explore your options. This is an exciting time — not just for the country, but for lawyers and the legal profession — and you don’t want to miss out on any opportunities.