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Four practical tips to succeed in the cybersecurity and privacy law market

Cyber Thief

October marked National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, and the ABA Section of Science & Technology Law (SciTech) hosted its second-annual Legal Careers in Cybersecurity, Privacy & Information Law event on Oct. 14th at Crowell & Moring LLP.

Angela Styles, chair of the firm’s executive committee, and moderator David Bodenheimer, partner at Crowell & Moring and SciTech Vice Chair and Division Co-Chair for Security, Privacy, and Information Law, kicked off the event acknowledging the valuable contributions of the ABA and lawyer attendees from a variety of firms and corporations.

The panel included the following practitioners:

  • Cheryl Falvey – Partner, Crowell & Moring LLP; former general counsel, Consumer Product Safety Commission and SciTech Internet of Things Committee Vice Chair;
  • Jon Gannon – General attorney, AT&T; former deputy unit chief, Office of Intelligence, National Security Division, DOJ and SciTech Homeland Security Committee Vice Chair;
  • Lucy Thomson – Founder and principal, Livingston PLLC and ABA SciTech Past Chair and Division Co-Chair for Security, Privacy and Information Law;
  • Jeff Greene – Senior policy counsel, cybersecurity, Symantec Corporation; former senior counsel, Senate Homeland Security & Governmental Affairs Committee and SciTech Homeland Security Committee Co-Chair;
  • Arash Heidarian – Corporate counsel, Amazon Web Services and SciTech Cloud Computing Committee Vice Chair;
  • Maureen Kelly – Assistant general counsel and corporate director, Northrop Grumman and ABA Public Contract Law Section Cybersecurity Committee Co-Chair.

With more data breaches and cyber threats uncovered daily, emerging science and technology issues are shaping the practice of law, raising unique challenges for law students, young lawyers and practitioners who enter this ever-accelerating practice. These four promising tips should be helpful regardless of the stage of your career.

They shared their practical tips.

1. Make an effort to understand emerging technologies.

Though a technology or computer background is not a prerequisite, those considering a career in cybersecurity or privacy will need to spend time developing some level of technical expertise. Thomson advised attendees to educate themselves by taking network security courses at a local community college or accruing IT security certifications. Alternatively, Falvey described how she developed her expertise by creating technology exhibits for litigation as a consumer product liability attorney. Whether you choose to develop your expertise through traditional courses or opt for a more hands-on experience, it is best to utilize your strengths when transitioning into this technical field.

Whether you choose to develop your expertise through traditional courses or opt for a more hands-on experience, it is best to utilize your strengths when transitioning into this technical field.

2. Be flexible and creative with your career path.

There is no isolated “right” way to develop a career in this area. Gannon encouraged attendees to think outside the box when developing their individual career path. Consider working with tech companies, think tanks or local nonprofits, any of which will develop pertinent skills that translate well into future practice.

3. Utilize available resources.

A general consensus was to utilize all available opportunities and resources. Becoming a member of the SciTech Section will help you stay up to date with emerging science and technology developments, career guidance, premier networking events, and contribution opportunities to begin building your career. Section membership is free for ABA law students and includes a subscription to the acclaimed magazine, The SciTech Lawyer.

4. Opportunities look a lot like people.

Going back to the basics, Greene reminded attendees that the first step may be as simple as just “being nice” to people with whom you interact. As he shared how helping a potential adversary changed the trajectory of his legal career, he emphasized the importance of making contacts and investing in people. Begin developing these relationships early in your legal career by joining professional networks and getting to know experts in your desired specialty.

One way to reach out to possible contacts is by joining one of the section’s 24 free committees, offering members the opportunity to connect with practitioners in innovative areas such as cloud computing, the Internet of things, information security, big data, or e-privacy. Carving out time to have coffee may be the distinguishing factor that gives you an edge in the job market.

The event would not have been possible without the following ABA co-sponsors: the ABA Cybersecurity Legal Task Force; the Science & Technology Law (SciTech) Section’s Homeland Security Committee, E-Privacy Committee, Privacy and Computer Crime Committee, Information Security Committee, Cloud Computing Committee, and Internet of Things Committee; Young Lawyers Division; and the Public Contract Law (PCL) Section’s Cybersecurity, Privacy and Data Protection Committee and Young Lawyers Committee.

Alysa Pfeiffer-Austin Alysa Pfeiffer-Austin recently earned her LL.M. from Georgetown Law with a concentration on Cyber and National Security Law. She also interned for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Alysa has a rich international perspective from interning for the United Nations, working at an orphanage in Mozambique, and volunteering with human trafficking safe houses in South Africa. She is currently focusing on applying her international experience and cybersecurity specialty to cross-border transactions. She serves as an ABA Section of Science & Technology Law Homeland Security Committee Content Contributor, which includes hot topic presenter and website editor responsibilities.