Limitless opportunities for lawyers? Sound too good to be true? The reality is that lawyers are front and center of the privacy law issues in the wake of scandals and crises like the Edward Snowden hacking issue.
And so lawyers who are smartly entering the privacy arena are cleaning up. Take Baker + McKenzie lawyer Brian Hengesbaugh, who specializes in privacy and data security issues and who have capitalized on two major game-changes: Target Corp’s credit card disaster and the Snowden leaks of surveillance files.
Chicago Business reports that opportunities for lawyers suddenly seem almost limitless, amid the rise of social media and state-sponsored hacking; the perceived risks of cloud computing; and the promised “Internet of Things” connecting vehicles, appliances and other machines to the Web.
“None of us thought it would take on the threat that it has,” says Bill Cook, the Chicago-based deputy chair of law firm McGuireWoods LLP’s data privacy and security team, who in the 1980s headed the U.S. attorney’s computer crime task force here.
Generally, lawyers say that the work covers a wide spectrum, from drafting disclosure policies to litigating when breaches occur to rendering advice on selling customer info to third parties, a common practice spotlighted two years ago by Facebook Inc.’s initial public offering.
They’re on consult when startups build “privacy by design” into their business plans and when established companies examine the backlogs of files they can—and should—purge.
We’re witnessing “a transformative event in the history of law”—the fading ability to keep information under lock and key, says Matthew Prewitt, who co-leads Schiff Hardin LLP’s privacy team from the Chicago office. “It’s going to take a while for the law to catch up with the business practices.
And until the law gets caught up, some people are going to get caught up in the switches.”
Any company that escaped a data breach last year was a lucky 1 in 10, according to a survey of 581 security professionals in the U.S. and Western Europe by the Ponemon Institute of Traverse City, Michigan, and IBM Corp.
The list of recent high-profile victims includes JPMorgan Chase & Co., which was the victim of a coordinated hacking attack over the summer; to Home Depot, which is investigating the theft of tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers; and Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence, who has vowed to prosecute the thief or thieves who hacked her personal accounts and posted nude photos of her on the Internet this month. More than 800 million accounts were infiltrated last year—rivaling the total of the previous three years.
The Chicago Business story also reports on other firms working hard and successfully in the area, like McDermott Will & Emery, below:
Daniel Gottlieb, left, partner and the co-head of McDermott Will & Emery’s privacy and data protection practice, and Geoffrey Vance, partner and discovery practice group leader
Chicago Business report that Sidley Austin LLP’s Jeffrey Sharer says he doesn’t see an equilibrium point coming any time soon.
Corporate America is closely following a federal case on appeal challenging the Federal Trade Commission’s policing practices. Just one of the agency’s many targets is defendant Wyndham Worldwide Corp., whose hotel customers were billed more than $10 million in hack attacks in 2008 and 2009.
“The FTC is the new cop on the block,” McGuireWoods’ Mr. Cook says, “and they’re coming in with more and more massive settlements.”