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Force Majeure & Impossibility of Performance Resulting from COVID-19
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At least in the short term, it’s clear that the Coronavirus pandemic is reshaping the legal industry. But it’s not all bad news. Data has revealed that while activity in some practice areas is slowing, other practice areas are seeing an increase. Yet despite the sheer volume of unknowns as the world confronts COVID-19, there are some emerging trends that may help attorneys navigate the crisis.
For starters, notice the word “reshaping” in the initial paragraph—you can allay your fears of a large-scale contraction within the legal profession. Instead, there may simply be a demand shift, as the need grows for legal assistance on specific matters related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In an earlier article, it was revealed that there was dramatic growth in product liability case filings during the early quarantine efforts in the United States—up an incredible 300 percent. Outside of that remarkable outlier, it can be possible to predict an uptick in activity for a handful of other practice areas. With history as a guide, there are two practice areas in particular that could potentially see growth as the pandemic and its related quarantine measures grind on.
Record unemployment rates, radically changed business operations and a large-scale economic downturn mean that legal issues related to labor & employment will likely increase. Employee furloughs, terminations/reductions in force and contract fulfillment are just a few of the matters that need legal insight from a lawyer. The pandemic has also impacted many employers’ HR policies. These employment issues could be as basic as implementing new social distancing rules, yet conversely, some companies might be forced to significantly redraw sick leave/attendance guidelines.
Indeed, the fundamental way we approach business and commerce may be forever changed, with less face-to-face interactions and more remote working opportunities. This transition will undoubtably stir up legal issues yet to be discovered, which will ultimately result in opportunities for labor & employment lawyers to grow their law practices.
And though these difficult issues are on the rise, labor & employment can be an evergreen practice to a savvy lawyer once the threat of the Coronavirus has abated and the world rebounds. Speaking optimistically, there will be a need for legal consultation on a vast range of positive economic issues, including renewed contracts, union negotiations and enhanced employee safety policies.
The demand for legal guidance on trusts & estates issues can often swell in times of crisis, as the stark realities of the situation force individuals to face some hard truths. The COVID-19 pandemic certainly falls within that category. And while it’s often difficult to envision a worst-case scenario, it is nonetheless an essential topic for many people to address. That means clients will likely be seeking out qualified legal counsel to assist with their long-term plans.
The topic of trust & estates goes well beyond the mere transfer of wealth too. From estate preservation and tax mitigation to health care and probate concerns, there are many nuances that make trusts & estates a robust practice area. (And there are jurisdictional needs to consider as well.)
Just like labor & employment, the trusts & estates practice area has significant growth potential in a post-COVID-19 world. One can simply look to ever-changing tax laws to understand why a lawyer is a critical asset in virtually any trust & estates matter.
Regardless of how well you’re enduring the COVID-19 pandemic, adding additional legal specialization to your law practice may sound appealing. But it should be a measured and calculated process.
Routinely and proactively assessing your mix of practice areas can help guard against negative economic impacts stemming from external factors beyond your control.
If you’re exploring a new practice area, be it in labor & employment, trust & estates, or some other specialization, there are tools that offer practical guidance to help you get up to speed quickly on new legal topics.
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