The world is barreling toward uber-connectivity between all things, delivering faster, more convenient ways of transacting, doing business, managing health care, governing and simply living. While cyber crime, the spoiler, continues to deal heavy blows to the U.S. and global economies, cyber-security law has emerged as a beacon for law firms and those they protect. The field holds immense potential for growth and profitability.

Many tenets of the law and regulatory infrastructure are still in their infancy, but cyber-security legal services are already bolstering the upward trend in spending on outside counsel by corporate legal departments. In my legal recruitment practice, I have witnessed why demand for these legal services is expected to break wide open in 2017.

Suiting up to answer demand

I work with law firms and Fortune 500 companies across the nation, many of which operate on a global scale. This year my recruiting practice has seen a huge uptick in law firms seeking attorneys with experience in cyber-security law.

To most efficiently meet client needs, most firms are organized internally by practice area, and industry group or client service group. Since cybersecurity is relevant to organizations in practically every industry (healthcare, financial services, retail, etc.) and in both the public and private sectors, law firms are establishing inclusive strategies for future growth and expansion to best service clients across practice groups.

Dedicated practices and sub-specialties are trending

Data privacy and security task forces are being created as a critical sub-specialty under technology and cyber-security practices. Other priority sub-specialties include payments and transactions focused on automated clearing house (ACH) and mobile transactions, as well as government, health care, financial services, telecommunications, retail, credit reporting, Internet services and other sub-specialties. And in the wake of recent data breaches, large and small scale, firms have also established cyber-security litigation practices to defend against class actions.

Talent – demand greatly outweighs supply

It’s certainly a candidate’s market. With rapid growth and high demand, firms are aggressively vying for the best attorneys with privacy and data security expertise.

Privacy offers an urgent and solid path for attorneys or law students wanting to specialize, and the cyber-security field is wide open for those with regulatory and litigation  skills, or experience in risk management, IT systems and information management, breach response, government  investigations, and more.

Donning armor for the new normal

Regardless of whether firms build a cyber-security practice, most are aware of the need to mitigate their own vulnerability to cyber criminals. According to the ABA, nearly a quarter of firms with 500 or more attorneys have experienced a cyber-security breach, a sobering event that is costly to navigate and resolve. Cyber-security insurance has become critical. “It’s something you must have,” says Robert Owen, a New York City-based partner with Sutherland Asbill & Brennan. On the corporate side, a new survey found that 80 percent of companies bought a stand-alone cyber-security policy in 2016, suggesting such plans are quickly becoming the new norm.

As technology and data integration continue their forward march, risks and vulnerabilities will emerge in lock step to expand this dynamic field of law. From my vantage point, I’m confident that corporations, governments, nonprofits and other organizations will have the external support they need from the legal services community.
With a J.D. from Stetson University College of Law, Whitney Worthington offers in-depth understanding of both the legal industry and executive recruiting for law firms, corporations and attorney candidates nationwide.

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