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Do Attorneys Need to Broaden their Skills?

February 21, 2014

Brian Pascal of The Recorder brought up an interesting point last week about “Being More Than Just a Lawyer”. Specifically honing in on privacy law, an area he believes sets itself apart by being “an academic focus, a professional discipline, and an area of public debate [that] has reached a prominence experienced by few other areas of law”. He explains that with privacy law there comes the obvious discussion of technology, often impossible to segregate the two.

He goes on to argue that when considering the role that an attorney plays in privacy law, there are two main factors: “first, we need to come to terms with the fact that except under very specific circumstances, the law plays a negligible role in the development of new technologies… The second and more important lesson is that when it comes to privacy, it is no longer enough to be ‘just a lawyer’”. Brian explains that the best lawyers understand the facts and in the case of privacy law that often means “scientific or technological elements that are not typically taught in law school”. He explains the need for attorneys who are technologically savvy that are “willing to get their hands dirty long before the fallout hits”. Here, fallout is referring to the mess attorneys are left covering up when companies who release a service then get bombarded for neglecting privacy or governments who use cutting edge technology for surveillance of their citizens get outed.

Brian lays out two examples of the type of lawyer he would like to see:

A lawyer who understands behavioral targeting and social psychology can help advertising companies balance the complex interplay between maximizing the value of extracted information and respecting customer trust. [And] a prosecutor who understands how the police located a suspect through the use of automated license plate readers can use that knowledge to make a stronger case.

But he makes a clear distinction, the idea is not to have attorneys take on the jobs of experts in various fields but they do need to understand the implications of all this new technology and how it impacts the clients, their customers and the world, because essentially “the practice of law is at its heart about the application of abstract theories to messy, changeable reality.”


To read more of Brian Pascal’s article click here.

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