Trending Practice Areas for Paralegals

Stephanie Ristvey - Monday, July 07, 2014


By Stephanie A. Ristvey, Owner/President, Ristvey Legal Search LLC

If you’re contemplating a job change or a new specialty, environmental law and intellectual property law are in-demand practice areas you might want to consider.

Environmental Law                       

Environmental  (or “green”) law issues are as varied and interesting as today’s headline news.  You could be researching water rights issues related to severe drought, preparing for hearings on the contamination of drinking water by hydraulic fracking in the natural gas extraction industry, or performing environmental due diligence for property acquisitions and development.

Not currently familiar with environmental law?  Be prepared to be your own teacher!  When I worked on mold contamination cases as a beginning paralegal, I did my homework on the science of mold.  It was a huge learning curve for me because I’d avoided science courses in college.  However, I understood that in order to be taken seriously, I had to become a mold expert.

Intellectual Property Law

Intellectual property law is an expanding field.  Everyone – businesses, authors, musicians, even tattoo artists – wants to protect their creative work.  If a company considers its intellectual capital to be one of its most valuable assets, then trademarks, copyrights, and patents for scientific and technological innovations are critical.

In addition, the global digital world has created issues around the protection of electronic content (from the Internet to smartphones), and in the last few years we’ve seen an uptick in lawsuits involving software-related patents as well.

Here again, you could be dealing with very technologically sophisticated patents in complex fields such as nanotechnology, pharmacology, or engineering (just to name a few) so you’ll have to be motivated to learn and do research if you don’t have a math or science background.


Whichever field you chose, you’ll have to monitor recent court decisions and stay on top of the latest changes in the laws.  Since you’ll be a liaison between your firm, your client, and state and federal regulatory agencies, top-notch writing and communication skills are indispensable.


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