How Much Do Practice Areas Vary from State to State? A Guide for Attorneys Looking for the Best Markets for their Practice Area |

How Much Do Practice Areas Vary from State to State? A Guide for Attorneys Looking for the Best Markets for their Practice Area


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Hot practice areas typically differ quite dramatically from state to state. However, there are consistencies which are generally always present in most geographical areas. These consistencies are generally applicable across most time periods in most geographic areas. While this is the sort of question I would love to ''write a book'' about, for purposes of brevity I will be brief and highlight only one or two areas that are very busy generally in major geographic areas.
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

What practice areas have you considered getting into? Were they hot practice areas?

As a general rule, the most in demand practice area at all points in time is always litigation. Litigation is always occurring and this is the case at almost all points in time-regardless of the economy. One way I have always explained this to my candidates is that when the economy is good people have money to hire attorneys and sue and when the economy is bad people sue people to get money they lost when the economy was good. In all my years in this profession I have never seen litigation slow down. Law firms are always seeking litigators at most points in time and the demand is pretty incessant. Litigation is virtually always the busiest and ''hottest'' practice area in the following markets:


There are some small exceptions to these rules: (1) Minneapolis has a very active intellectual property and patent prosecution base and these practice areas are generally quite active there; (2) Chicago has strong intellectual property, real estate and corporate demands but these are quite steady; (3) Newark has a very consistent base of corporate work but litigation still dominates.

In fact, in most cities of the United States litigation simply dominates the hiring and is always ''hot?'' in some respects because there is always considerable demand for litigators. Beneath litigators in terms of demands is then generally corporate and other departments such as insurance, intellectual property, tax and so forth. For example, despite its reputation as the center of governmental activity in the United States, the most active practice area in the Washington, DC region is most generally not government contracts or some other government sounding practice area. The most active practice area is generally litigation-I mention Washington, DC because it is ''litigation with a twist'' compared to other markets.

Litigation is an active practice area in the Washington, DC area and is generally very active at most points in time. An important fact to understand about litigation is that attorneys who work in the litigation field can research, write about and interpret a great deal of policy and other information-and not just marching into court as litigators in smaller markets might do.

Below is a discussion of a few areas that continually have a good deal of activity in practice areas other than litigation.

New York City typically has the majority of work in the financial field due the heavy concentration of banks and other financial institutions in this market. Accordingly, at most points in time the corporate practice area would be considered the ''hot'' practice area here. While this differs from time to time this is generally consistent.

After the dot com bust and September 11th, for example, there was noticeably less corporate work generally in New York City than there had been previously. Notwithstanding, as a proportion of work nationally compared to other practice areas New York stayed very busy. In addition, there is always a lot of corporate work in New York because there is so much financial work there-regardless of the state of the economy. New York City also continually has lots of work in the tax and insurance fields. In terms of hiring the most attorneys, the main and largest practice area is always corporate because it interrelates with so many other fields. A law student desiring to work in New York would be best suited pursuing corporate work.

Are you a law student that wants to work in New York? What makes you interested in doing so?

Real estate has traditionally been the area where there is the most activity in Florida. Across most points in time there has been a strong demand for talented real estate attorneys in Florida. This is likely due to lots of speculative construction and the fact that seniors and others seem to be moving to this state in great droves. There is also a strong demand for litigators in Florida, however, this demand is always fairly constant and never has reached the fever pitch that the demand for real estate attorneys seems to be consistently at.

Due to its proximity to Silicon Valley, the hottest practice area at all points in time in Northern California tends to be intellectual property litigation and also patent prosecution. As the United States increasingly moves towards an information economy, companies put an increasing emphasis on ensuring they are doing everything possible to protect their intellectual property assets. Over the last several years the intellectual property-related practice areas have never really abated in terms of how busy they have been.

Charlotte has been getting a very busy banking and corporate practice over the past several years and corporate and banking work has become increasingly important in this region. As this has occurred the demand for banking and corporate attorneys has remained ''hot''.

Las Vegas simply cannot hire real estate attorneys fast enough. Despite its desert location this area has been demanding an increasingly large amount of real estate attorneys over the past several years. Even with the weakening of the housing market in Las Vegas and unsold condominiums and cancelled projects, the demand for attorneys in Las Vegas in the real estate practice area has remained robust to keep up with demand.


During the fallout from the dotcom boom in 2001 and in the next ensuing couple of years the importance of practice areas geographically has become critically obvious. Because law firms, corporation and other are all businesses, they shed attorneys in practice areas that were nonproductive just as fast as they could and absorbed attorneys in practice areas that made money just as fast as they could.

The discussion above highlights practice areas which have stood the test of time consistently in these geographic regions over the past several years. It is extremely important to understand that practice areas that stand the test of time are likely to always have jobs in these regions and those that do not may be part of boom and bust cycles.

Please see this article to find out if litigation is right for you: Why Most Attorneys Have No Business Being Litigators: Fifteen Reasons Why You Should Not Be a Litigator

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About Harrison Barnes

Harrison Barnes is a prominent figure in the legal placement industry, known for his expertise in attorney placements and his extensive knowledge of the legal profession.

With over 25 years of experience, he has established himself as a leading voice in the field and has helped thousands of lawyers and law students find their ideal career paths.

Barnes is a former federal law clerk and associate at Quinn Emanuel and a graduate of the University of Chicago College and the University of Virginia Law School. He was a Rhodes Scholar Finalist at the University of Chicago and a member of the University of Virginia Law Review. Early in his legal career, he enrolled in Stanford Business School but dropped out because he missed legal recruiting too much.

Barnes' approach to the legal industry is rooted in his commitment to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. He believes that the key to success in the legal profession is to be proactive, persistent, and disciplined in one's approach to work and life. He encourages lawyers to take ownership of their careers and to focus on developing their skills and expertise in a way that aligns with their passions and interests.

One of how Barnes provides support to lawyers is through his writing. On his blog,, and, he regularly shares his insights and advice on a range of topics related to the legal profession. Through his writing, he aims to empower lawyers to control their careers and make informed decisions about their professional development.

One of Barnes's fundamental philosophies in his writing is the importance of networking. He believes that networking is a critical component of career success and that it is essential for lawyers to establish relationships with others in their field. He encourages lawyers to attend events, join organizations, and connect with others in the legal community to build their professional networks.

Another central theme in Barnes' writing is the importance of personal and professional development. He believes that lawyers should continuously strive to improve themselves and develop their skills to succeed in their careers. He encourages lawyers to pursue ongoing education and training actively, read widely, and seek new opportunities for growth and development.

In addition to his work in the legal industry, Barnes is also a fitness and lifestyle enthusiast. He sees fitness and wellness as integral to his personal and professional development and encourages others to adopt a similar mindset. He starts his day at 4:00 am and dedicates several daily hours to running, weightlifting, and pursuing spiritual disciplines.

Finally, Barnes is a strong advocate for community service and giving back. He volunteers for the University of Chicago, where he is the former area chair of Los Angeles for the University of Chicago Admissions Office. He also serves as the President of the Young Presidents Organization's Century City Los Angeles Chapter, where he works to support and connect young business leaders.

In conclusion, Harrison Barnes is a visionary legal industry leader committed to helping lawyers achieve their full potential. Through his work at BCG Attorney Search, writing, and community involvement, he empowers lawyers to take control of their careers, develop their skills continuously, and lead fulfilling and successful lives. His philosophy of being proactive, persistent, and disciplined, combined with his focus on personal and professional development, makes him a valuable resource for anyone looking to succeed in the legal profession.

About BCG Attorney Search

BCG Attorney Search matches attorneys and law firms with unparalleled expertise and drive, while achieving results. Known globally for its success in locating and placing attorneys in law firms of all sizes, BCG Attorney Search has placed thousands of attorneys in law firms in thousands of different law firms around the country. Unlike other legal placement firms, BCG Attorney Search brings massive resources of over 150 employees to its placement efforts locating positions and opportunities its competitors simply cannot. Every legal recruiter at BCG Attorney Search is a former successful attorney who attended a top law school, worked in top law firms and brought massive drive and commitment to their work. BCG Attorney Search legal recruiters take your legal career seriously and understand attorneys. For more information, please visit

Harrison Barnes does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for attorneys and law students each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can attend anonymously and ask questions about your career, this article, or any other legal career-related topics. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

Harrison also does a weekly free webinar with live Q&A for law firms, companies, and others who hire attorneys each Wednesday at 10:00 am PST. You can sign up for the weekly webinar here: Register on Zoom

You can browse a list of past webinars here: Webinar Replays

You can also listen to Harrison Barnes Podcasts here: Attorney Career Advice Podcasts

You can also read Harrison Barnes' articles and books here: Harrison's Perspectives

Harrison Barnes is the legal profession's mentor and may be the only person in your legal career who will tell you why you are not reaching your full potential and what you really need to do to grow as an attorney--regardless of how much it hurts. If you prefer truth to stagnation, growth to comfort, and actionable ideas instead of fluffy concepts, you and Harrison will get along just fine. If, however, you want to stay where you are, talk about your past successes, and feel comfortable, Harrison is not for you.

Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

To read more career and life advice articles visit Harrison's personal blog.

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