Applications continue to rise

Whatever your opinion on Brexit, the election of President Trump, or the ongoing debate on how to reduce income inequality, it's fair to say we appear more divided than ever. But this does not necessarily mean bad news for law schools. According to the president of the Law School Admissions Council,  Kellye Testy, there's been an 11.6 percent increase in applications to law schools within the last two years, with almost half of it driven by what has been called the ‘Trump Bump'. In other words, today's tumultuous political landscape is inspiring more young people to study law in an attempt to find practical solutions to some of our most profound challenges, such as the environment... 

New laws to protect the environment

In 2020, lawmakers across the world will continue to lobby for new regulations to increase global sustainability and reduce pollution. One of the biggest challenges is how to balance economic stability or growth while minimizing negative environmental impact. This will include renegotiating large parts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) between the USA and Mexico, and the delicate task of applying the right type of pressure and incentives on emerging industrial supercities.

In terms of climate change, 2019 was Greta Thunberg's year. The 16-year-old Swedish campaigner addressed the United Nations, received a Nobel Peace Prize nomination, and inspired a new generation of young people to take an active role in promoting sustainability.

Some have already taken their concerns to the very top. 2019 saw the case of Juliana vs. the United States reach a federal court, in which 21 young people stated the US government is violating the sacred constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by aggravating climate change. US District Judge Ann Aiken declared, "Exercising my ‘reasoned judgment,’ I have no doubt that the right to a climate system capable of sustaining human life is fundamental to a free and ordered society.” Expect to see more young people pushing for legislative changes related to environmental issues this year.

Human rights

Protests in Hong Kong have once again put human rights at the forefront of public discourse. Human rights lawyers will be keeping a close on the situation throughout 2020, along with many others, such as Brexit, presenting fascinating opportunities for law students and law graduates to use their talent and expertise to find solutions to the complex issues inherent in these political developments.

Automation and AI in law

Experts are predicting a rise in automation and artificial intelligence (AI) software this year, with smart machines assisting lawyers in due diligence, as well as speeding up the legal process through data recognition and analytics. What's more, we may see AI automate some paralegal duties, including drafting legal documents and qualifying potential clients.

Data protection will remain a hot topic

As more and more services go digital, keeping personal information safe remains a major concern for consumers, businesses, and government regulators. We've already seen the introduction of new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) legislation in Europe, giving people more control over how their data is used. And with the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) having come into effect yesterday, January 1, it looks like 2020 will be a busy year for regulators and US law firms. The CCPA focuses on similar legal issues as GDPR -- the right to request and delete information, as well as how personal data is collected. Similar laws are also being drafted in South Korea and several South American countries.

Legal marketing in 2020

The traditional life-long relationship between a lawyer and their clients is becoming increasingly rare. Today's Generation Z and Generation Alpha will, in many cases, not go looking for a particular 'lawyer' or a 'solicitor'. Instead, they typically want a service, and they want it as quickly as possible. Accessibility is key. These tech-savvy consumers can find all the information they need in just a few clicks, meaning traditional law firms and providers will continue to adopt innovative new marketing techniques to grab their customer's attention. These will include targeted social media campaigns that don't just sell but connect with users as individuals by assisting and responding to their specific needs. 

Retirement law

Many Western countries are facing a demographic bulge (or 'demographic timebomb' as some more alarmist reports have put it), caused by the disproportionate numbers of births in the years following World War Two. Millions of people born in this period, often called 'Baby Boomers', are now going or have gone from working to retirement -- and thus, generally speaking, generating less tax revenue than before while at the same time using more taxpayer-funded public services.

As natural as this may be, the numbers pose a significant challenge for politicians and lawyers. For example, France has seen many protests about its government's planned pension reforms and the issue is also contentious in the UK. So, this area of law has many (and an increasing number of) opportunities and represents an interesting challenge for law students and grads. Also aging populations mean firms are seeing massive increases in legal services such as retirement planning and asset management.

So it looks like 2020 is shaping up to be even more eventful than 2019 in the legal world!  The next 12 months promise a host of challenges and plenty of opportunities for young law professionals who want to make the world a safer and more prosperous place for everyone...