Four Legal Careers That Didn’t Exist 10 Years Ago

A decade ago, Facebook had just debuted and tweeting was still for the birds. A “smart” phone was anything that did more than dialing, and the “cloud” was just something that threatened your lunch break in the park.

The legal profession has also evolved quite a bit since 2005. Thanks to countless technological advances, a major shift in healthcare provision and accountability and cultural shifts, a number of new positions have emerged in the legal field during the past decade. Here are four relatively new legal careers that didn’t exist 10 years ago:

1. eDiscovery professional

Electronic discovery, also known as eDiscovery, is the process of identifying, collecting and presenting ESI (electronically stored information) in litigation matters. As the volume of ESI increases exponentially for organizations each year, eDiscovery is one of the fastest-growing legal specialties today. To top it off, social media and cloud computing continue to make eDiscovery a uniquely complex challenge for law firms and corporate legal departments. As a result, eDiscovery specialists, including lawyers and paralegals with electronic discovery and digital forensic procedures are increasingly in high demand. 

2. ACA legal specialist

Since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) passed in 2010, demand for healthcare experts has been on the rise throughout the legal profession. Employers, healthcare providers and insurance companies are scrambling to comply with ACA provisions, some of which will continue to roll out through 2015 and beyond. Many of these organizations are turning to healthcare legal professionals to help them comply with complex ACA regulations.

In a Robert Half Legal survey, lawyers said the healthcare practice area will offer the third greatest revenue generation opportunity for their law firm in the coming years. Considering the stats, it’s no surprise that healthcare-related legal careers are skyrocketing.

3. Cybercrime expert

As more and more Americans are using the Internet, smartphones and tablets to make purchases, share information and download apps, cybercrime continues to grow, in both frequency and sophistication. The estimated annual cost to the global economy from this increasingly prevalent crime now exceeds $400 billion, according to a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and McAfee. Consequently, many law firms and corporate legal departments are seeking attorneys, paralegals and other legal and information technology professionals with expertise in the Internet, network security and cybercrime.

4. Corporate compliance officer

Facing increasingly stringent government regulations and compliance standards, many corporations are relying on their legal departments to help manage the company’s risk exposure and meet regulatory compliance. In the Association of Corporate Counsel's 2014 Chief Legal Officer (CLO) Survey, respondents identified compliance as the most critical issue they face. CLOs flagged regulatory/governmental changes and information privacy as the next most important areas of concern—two categories that often intersect with compliance.

As a result, many legal departments are hiring corporate compliance officers, directors, managers, and other specialists in this area. These professionals conduct research on compliance rules and regulations, identify compliance issues, help develop compliance policies, and suggest changes to bolster compliance procedures.

Other legal career paths have emerged in the past decade; however, legal professionals with expertise in the areas of eDiscovery, healthcare, cybercrime, and compliance are among the most in-demand legal specialists today. As for the next 10 years, we can only dream what new careers might emerge in the legal field.

Are you building a legal career in a field that didn’t exist 10 years ago? Share your comments below.