September 03, 2008
Baby Boomers
Posted by J.W. Verret

We've all heard about how the retirement of the baby boomers will strain Social Security and Medicare. Law firms will have to deal with significant increases in partner attrition. And, law schools might have to deal with professor attrition...a promising thought for young academics. But with dilemma comes opportunity, and this demographic shift also stands to enrich the industries that serve this demographic.

This got me thinking about the effects of the baby boom generation as consumers of legal services. There are a few easy ones, like Trust and Estates Planning; I would imagine that many of us wait until we near retirement to deal with this issue. Or, unfortunately, as baby boomers pass away a significant proportion of estates will be the subject of litigation among the recipients. (as a side note, and owing to the pecularities of equity jurisdiction, when I was clerking in Delaware Chancery my Judge had, between blockbuster merger cases, an estate case over a decedent who provided for her cat's care in her will...a neighbor claimed to be the beneficiary and submitted a claim for over fifty thousand to care for the kittens over their lifetime).

But the effects stretch more broadly. The baby boomers seem to be undersaving. This means that financial planning professionals will find new work, as well as those who represent them. Then again, perhaps a lot of baby boomers will decide to delay their retirement, making age discrimination a ripe area. Torts concerning eldercare might see an increase. Securities Fraud aimed at Seniors has been an issue for the SEC, perhaps we'll see it work its way into securities class actions. For instance, this report from the SEC says that though seniors currently make up 15% of the population, they account for 30% of all fraud victims. Med-mal will likely see growth, as seniors spend the most on medical services. Also, patent law might see biotech continue to grow more quickly than other sub-specialities due to shifts in demand for innovation toward discoveries benefiting those nearest the end of their life. I also wonder whether the demographic pressures of the baby boomers has fueled institutional investor interest in alternative investment strategies, such as activist hedge funds, to help fund benefit demands. That's about all I can think of, how many have I missed?

One wonders whether this will also translate into an increased focus on these issues in scholarship. Then again, scholarship doesn't necessarily track business trends, witness the disproportional focus on constitutional law in scholarship relative to the proportion of lawyers who actually practice con law. Anyone have any other thoughts?

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