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With the pressure of regulatory compliance on corporations showing no sign of letting up, corporate and securities law will offer the most job opportunities for lawyers in the coming decade, according to a national poll. In the survey conducted by staffing agency Robert Half Legal and released Tuesday, those two practice areas were cited by 24 percent of the respondents. Litigation ranked second, cited by 21 percent of the 300 attorneys at large firms and corporations who have been practicing for at least three years. Intellectual property law and international law were tied for third place, with each chosen by 16 percent of respondents. Environmental law was next, with 12 percent, followed by commercial real estate, chosen by 5 percent. Other areas and “don’t know” were each chosen by three percent. “A heightened focus on regulatory compliance issues should ensure that corporate and securities law will remain a top practice area in the future,” says Charles Volkert, executive director of Robert Half Legal. “Litigation also is expected to produce a significant volume of casework and intensify demand for legal professionals with relevant experience,” he says. Corporations have greatly increased their spending on compliance in recent years, and much of that money is devoted to legal spending, says Arthur Laby, who teaches securities law at Rutgers Law School-Camden. The fall of Enron and WorldCom, the birth of Sarbanes-Oxley and heightened Securities and Exchange Commission compliance rules for mutual funds and financial advisers are part of that trend, says Laby. Work in this area is often countercyclical, however, he says. During boom times, firms may not be as concerned about compliance as they should be. “But if the bubble bursts, there is a lot of looking behind doors to find out whether anyone cut corners with respect to compliance, and that means a lot of work for the lawyers,” Laby says. Claude Salomon, a securities lawyer with LeClairRyan in Newark, concurs with the choice of corporate and securities law as offering the most job opportunities in the next decade. Increasingly complex and sophisticated financial vehicles, such as collateralized mortgage obligations, have prompted more rules from government agencies, says Salomon, who is also co-chair of the State Bar Association’s Securities Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement Committee. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. are some of the prime issuers of such regulations, she says. “When something happens to cause a downturn or a distortion in the markets, then the response of the government is more regulation. The subprime meltdown, the loss of confidence in the financial industry, the downturns in banks – every day you see new regulations coming into place. And, of course, that makes more work for securities lawyers,” says Salomon. Securities class actions, brought on behalf of unhappy investors, have fallen off recently due to court rulings requiring initial pleadings to surmount higher hurdles to overcome a motion to dismiss, says Salomon. But at the same time, corporations are spending more on having lawyers conduct internal investigations to prevent regulatory problems, Salomon says. “Regulatory counseling is very big and it will continue to grow,” she says. At Advocate Legal Search and Consulting in Newark, several law firms have put in requests for corporate and securities lawyers, says principal Dina Cappuccio. She says the increasingly global nature of capital markets is creating more business opportunities here, and therefore more work for U.S. lawyers. “In terms of keeping corporate law hot, I think one of the reasons is there’s a lot of foreign money coming in,” she says.

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