The legal profession has, ab initio, been seen as a prestigious profession — a perception that still ignites and elicits passion for it amongst contemporary students. These days, with its ever-increasing and eclectic branches, law students are usually at a crossroad as regards their area(s) of specialization. In settling for these areas of specialization, various factors influence students, including passion, exposure, and probably most importantly, money! No one wants to spend 5+x +1+1+1 years (in Nigeria) studying law and without money to show for it in the long run. It is against this backdrop that this article will be examining potential moneyspinning areas of law in the latter parts of this decade and the ones following.
It should be noted that this is not professional advice; it is simply a forecast based on personal research and available statistics.
To start with, it is actually not news to anyone who observes global trends that one of the major focuses of the global community currently is trying to ‘restore’ the earth and prevent further damage. This brings me to the first potential money-spinner, environmental law. Since the signing of the Paris Climate Accord in 2015, a pact which various countries signed to ensure that greenhouse emissions are reduced and to take better cognizance of the environment, the issue of energy has taken a position of precedence. Clear pointers to this phenomenon are the emergence of more environmental activities and NGOs like Greta Thunberg (a teenage Swedish activist whose influence has been felt far and wide, especially through the environmental strike undertaken by school children like her), Alexander Ocasio Cortez (an heavily criticized environmental activist – she flies planes unlike Greta) and so on. Not forgetting the attention-grabbing GREEN NEW DEAL. In fact, political parties are being formed in the EU, having environmental restoration as the gravamen of their ideology.
All these have snowballed into meaning that more than ever, companies are doing whatever they can to meet up with government-imposed deadlines, especially the automobile industry. Foremost in this environment-friendly automobile race is Tesla, Hyundai – who is also working on hydrogen cell-powered vehicles that emit water vapour instead of smoke, Nissan, SEAT, and most recently, GM. It is no surprise that these days governments are setting benchmarks for carbon emissions (countries like France even already imposes carbon taxes), especially the ones that come from motor vehicles. China has plans that by about of its vehicles on the roads will be electric cars and are already firing on all cylinders (pun intended) to ensure this. This will mean that in coming years, energy-based companies will be strictly regulated and, as such, will most likely result in more lawsuits seeing that industrial giants seem to have a knack for flouting rules. Well, I guess lawyers would appreciate that!
Chances are that you have heard of Space X. A slightly lower chance that you have heard of Virgin Galactic. A chance that is even lowered when Blue Origin is mentioned and maybe infinitesimal if the name mentioned is Mojave Aerospace Ventures. All the aforelisted, as their names might have indicated, are aerospace giants owned by Elon Musk, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, and the late Paul Allen, respectively. If anything at all, the calibre of ownership should have informed you that the aerospace industry is a money-spinner that is set to become even bigger. Not to make this assertion equivalent to mere blustery, a Morgan Stanley report in 2015 valued the global space economy to be worth $350 billion; yes, you saw right $350 billion!!! And here is the catch; it only gets better! These same statistics prognosticates that by the year 2040, the global space economy will be worth $1.10 trillion! (37% internet, Aerospace and defence 16%, IT hardware 16%, Telecom services 12%, media 10%, Communication systems 4% and other areas 5%). Interestingly, this breakdown does not include the ambitious space tourism that the earlier mentioned aerospace firms hope to have achieved before 2040. With that at the back of your mind and a bit of optimism, we can almost be sure that the aerospace industry will not be worth less than projected. In fact, it could be worth much more. Needless to say, the foray of more private aerospace ventures will mean stricter or more controlling laws (which will definitely get broken). In order to ensure that space does not give space to anarchy and where there are laws, you come in as a lawyer!
Also, the introduction and rapidly increasing popularity of terminologies and technological innovations like cryptocurrency, E-payment solutions, and Blockchain is a pointer to another rapidly growing branch of law – fintech. Fintech (in the legal context) refers to a branch of law that deals with the regulation of financial technology or financial instruments that are digital and electronic in nature. Just so you know how big this branch of law could be, Tech giants like Facebook (Ethereum), Apple (Apple pay and Apple crypto), Samsung (Samsung Pay), Alibaba (Alipay), and so on have all invested in the area of financial technology. Though various clouds of doubt hanging over the fintech stratosphere – cryptocurrency, in particular, various studies suggest that there are just some of the ephemeral challenges that face new innovations which will dissipate in no time; recent developments are proving this assertion to be true.
Meanwhile, Blockchain has become a widely employed technology by both tech giants and start-ups alike. From Amazon to Alibaba to McDonald’s and so on, you discover that the wide applicability of Blockchain makes it an infallible “next big thing.” Just as icing on the cake, governments are taking it seriously too. For example, Dubai (an emirate in the UAE) aims to be the blockchain capital in the nearest future. With laws in place regulating this money-spinner, lawyers are in pole position to be smiling to the bank (if you know your onions).
At this juncture, I will be mentioning a branch of law you might have been waiting to see all along, but call it me saving the best for the last; Artificial intelligence. Definitely, with the current trends, you and I have little doubt about artificial intelligence being a money-spinning branch of law. The future is tech, the future is autonomous, the future is AI. From self-driving cars, home safety sensors and personal assistants, self-flying drones, to robotic medical surgeons, the world is inching closer to an autonomous age. Apparently, this ‘age’ in question can only be made possible by the use of artificial intelligence. You can be sure that any statistics you come across on the viability of artificial intelligence in the next two decades will at best be modest. The most interesting part of this? Lawyers who are into artificial intelligence will be needed in virtually all other areas of law, seeing that the cataclysmic development of this area of law makes it ever eclectic; law and medicine, international Law, commercial law, intellectual property law, and so on (plus there’s an ethics side to it!). In the real sense, the opportunities here are endless.
Having examined the aforementioned branches, there are other branches I tip as dark horses, and they are as follows;
– Law of Taxation
– ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
Why the law of taxation, you might ask?
First, the area of taxation is already a well-explored terrain in the western world. However, in Africa, much potential still lies in it. This is especially amongst countries that would soon discover the folly of relying on a single natural resource that might lose relevance very fast. Nevertheless, the area of digital taxation or digital services taxation is another little-explored area of taxation by both the western world and Third World countries. As of the time of writing this, France, Italy, Turkey, Nigeria, and India are part of the several countries that have joined the bandwagon of charging digital taxes. Hence it’s huge potential.
Lurking deep in the shadows is another not-so-recent area of law experiencing a meteoric rise. Gentleman and gentlemen in skirts, ADR. Perhaps, this is the branch of law that covers all branches (save for criminal law). Its economic viability is almost sure. This is due to the fact that these days, more firms and individuals alike don’t seem to have a positive disposition to litigation; a phenomenon partly influenced by the speed of transaction and happenings in this age – no one wants to be left behind – something engaging in courtroom lawsuits could do to you. Not to mention the huge amount of money spent on litigation. The great news, as earlier said, is that any branch of law, save criminal law, is covered by ADR. The downside, you don’t have to be a lawyer to benefit (yeah, it is a downside to me because I’m a lawyer to be). This means the cash gets split amongst other professions too!
Conclusively, as much as financial security is a factor in considering your area of specialization in the legal profession, ensure that you have a passion for whatever you are going into. Needless to say, your current lack of passion for that area you deem as financially fulfilling is not much of a hindrance. Developing passion for that area is not a quixotic idea.
PS; this article was written with recourse to the global community, not Nigeria alone.
About the Author
Ajongolo Oluwafemi is a law student of Obafemi Awolowo University and an award-winning public speaker, freelance writer and content creator who enjoys writing, reading and social analysis. He also has a plethora of other art-related hobbies like smartphone photography, drawing and painting, singing and so on. He can be reached at email@example.com or on LinkedIn at Oluwafemi Ajongolo.