By Sam Pfeifle
Citing the fact that “clients and potential clients are constantly talking about it,” super-regional law firm Lane Powell LLC has launched a formal Privacy and Data Security practice, with an initial group of more than 20 attorneys, based in Seattle, WA, Portland, OR, and Anchorage, AK.
“We have a lot of attorneys already with a great history in HIPAA, CAN-SPAM and FCRA,” said Shawn Lindsay, CIPP/US, who co-chairs the practice with JoAnn Kohl, but the firm chose to formalize its focus on privacy and data security because its simply too hot a topic to ignore.
“Where intellectual property was 10 years ago, I think that’s where privacy is today,” said Lindsay. “Of course, it’s in the news all the time, but more importantly, among our clients and potential clients, when we go visit with them, they say the areas of service they need are employment—that’s always number one—and foreign practice, and then they always ask about privacy and security.”
In addition to Lindsay, one other attorneys has a CIPP and other has passed Foundation and will soon test for CIPP, he said, and “we are absolutely funneling resources” to the new practice. He called privacy and data security a “disruptive” topic in business today, and “not only do businesses have to respond, but law firms have to respond. This is our response. We’re full bore ahead.”
He said the firm is already conducting privacy audits, often in conjunction with an insurance company looking for small businesses to decrease their risk profiles.
“It’s cheaper to build a fence around the top of the hill,” Lindsay joked, “rather than pay for an ambulance at the bottom of the hill when someone falls down. We’ll make sure everything is compliant and everything is in shape. Companies are attracted to that, especially when they know the insurance companies will pay some of the fee for the audit and compliance check.”
And that feeds into a new trend Lindsay is noticing that may be an area of focus for the practice.
“I notice cybersecurity or privacy and security insurance plans have really become new to the market these past three or four years,” he said, “and there has been a lot of litigation as to whether privacy and security issues are underneath the general policy. Insurance underwriters have responded to that by explicitly excluding or including data security and privacy overage, and now they have it as a standalone product. And they’re selling that left and right, and I’ve noticed that a lot of our clients are buying that product. That’s an indicator as to where this is going. I see this as a new growth area.”
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