The International Association of Privacy Professionals named WilmerHale Partner and Cybersecurity and Privacy Practice Co-Chair Kirk Nahra, CIPP/US, its 2021 winner of the IAPP Vanguard Award.
Historically awarded at the IAPP’s Global Privacy Summit, the IAPP Vanguard Award recognizes privacy professionals “who show exceptional leadership, knowledge and creativity in the field of privacy and data protection, whether through spearheading projects or programs that positively impact the profession or through achievements over the course of an entire tenure or career.”
In letters nominating Nahra for the Vanguard Award, colleagues said he is “a leading authority on privacy and cybersecurity matters” who “forces us all to think outside the box” with knowledge and creativity in the field of privacy and data protection that is “unparalleled.”
IQVIA Global Chief Privacy Officer Kim Gray, CIPP/US, called Nahra “an invaluable legal resource” whose “privacy thought leadership has helped to shape not only the privacy profession, but also public opinion and policy.”
Nahra joined WilmerHale in 2019, after a long career as a privacy and health care lawyer, where he counsels clients across varying industries on implementing privacy and data security laws across the country and internationally. He has been involved with the IAPP from its inception, serving on the organization’s board of directors and currently its Publications Advisory Board.
He is also dedicated to shaping privacy leaders of the future as a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law and as a mentor to young associates, including with his alma mater Georgetown University, the American Health Law Association, and the Women in Security and Privacy program. He previously taught privacy law courses at Case Western Reserve University and the University of Maine’s Law School and currently serves as a fellow at the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology and also The Cordell Institute at Washington University in St. Louis.
“I enjoy it. I think I can be helpful to people,” Nahra said. “I think the professional skillset on the counseling side of explaining things and helping people walk through options, that kind of stuff, and then a general broad base of knowledge is really useful. I’m a good listener when I’m not talking too much, and I think that’s important. Just helping people figure out what they want to do and work through issues, I really enjoy that.”
Nahra started in privacy-related work in 1999 and said the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act rules were “fortuitous” in the trajectory and growth of his career. Nahra said he recognized the importance of the statutes and said, “this is something a whole bunch of people are going to need help with.”
“What I’ve done in my career had nothing to do with anything I studied in law school, anything to do with why I went to that firm in the first place, anything I ever thought about doing, and most of the work didn’t really exist,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been a successful pioneer in developing two entirely new bodies of law.”
Privacy law issues have played into his skillset, Nahra said, adding his “niche” has been understanding legal concepts and explaining them to peers and clients in a clear and concise way.
“I think I’ve been good at recognizing what I’m good at and what I’m not good at, and tailoring a career designed to what I’m good at … and the fortuity that it happened to be in a field that became a field, and became a growing field,” he said. “I’m not going to claim credit for the fact that privacy law has gone from being health care companies and banks to being a global phenomenon, but I’m happy to take advantage of that situation.”
IAPP President and CEO J. Trevor Hughes, CIPP, said Nahra has been a "steadfast champion of the privacy profession from the earliest days of the IAPP."
"He somehow combines the highest level of expertise with a remarkable generosity of time, particularly for younger privacy pros," he said. "We are a better profession because of his contributions."
Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash
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