After nearly two decades as Microsoft's chief privacy counsel, Mike Hintze, CIPM, CIPP/C, CIPP/E, CIPP/G, CIPP/US, CIPT, has moved to private practice, joining wife Susan Lyon-Hintze, CIPP/US, to lead Hintze Law. At the two-year-old-firm based in Seattle, Washington, Hintze will focus on global privacy and data protection compliance, policy and strategy.
He said the reasons for the move were two-fold and personal: Lyon-Hintze's firm was established, doing great, and a safe place to land, and his oldest son is a sophomore in high school and will soon leave the nest, so he was looking to work closer to home and have some flexibility in being his own boss so as to spend more time being dad.
Looking back, he's got no regrets.
"Microsoft was awesome," he said. "I loved working there. I can't imagine any job in the privacy space where I would have had the number of amazing opportunities and experiences and ability to work on really cool stuff that I had there."
Hintze, who speaks in a relaxed, measured tone and has a laid-back disposition, the kind you might typically expect of a longtime Seattleite, said he especially reveled in the global nature of his work at the tech giant and its varied nature. He worked on internal compliance, public policy, government affairs, and testified before Congress five times, among other accomplishments.
Hintze Law currently serves a range of large global tech companies to small startups, many of them in the mobile space. Hintze said companies seek the firm's advice for everything from developing programs and finding training resources to reaching compliance and reducing risk of FTC enforcement and oversight, among other topics.
"What I plan to bring is to build on the experience of Susan, as both the in-house lawyer and in-house counsel, to bring more of that experience on the in-house side," Hintze said, adding his recent experience at Microsoft, including working with governments and regulators, gives him an understanding of what companies "really need, as opposed to a long legal memo from outside counsel."
He seems himself as sort of an outside-inside counsel for companies now, available to help them formulate their positions on public policy matters, connecting them with industry members who can help "amplify their voice and advocate for policies that are balanced and make sense for both industry and protecting consumers."
Hintze's also spending the semester back inside a classroom. He's in his third week of teaching a course at the University of Washington's law school.
"It's fun. It's a ton of work," he said. "But, it's cool being able to mold young minds. When you're practicing, you get so focused on the weeds, so it's kind of nice to be able to step back and think about the big picture in totality; privacy law and big concepts and all of that. It's useful even in terms of my practice."
Hintze's still in the privacy game after all these years, he said, because the landscape constantly changes and keeps things fresh. But this new move to private practice is taking things up a level, too.
"The element of the unknown is also a little bit exciting, because I really don't know what clients are going to come to me," Hintze said. "What my practice will look like in a year, I don't really know. That's one of the things that makes it interesting and fun."
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