Gerry Stegmaier, CIPP/US, a longtime lawyer in the privacy space and current member of the IAPP Education Advisor Board, has moved from Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati to join the privacy practice at Goodwin Procter.
“It means about 15 minutes more commuting time each way,” he joked, “further into the heart of DC, right across from the Renaissance Hotel,” which should be familiar to those who attended early versions of the IAPP Global Privacy Summit.
Stegmaier has represented many organizations on privacy and data security matters before the likes of the Federal Trade Commission, state attorneys general and in consumer class-actions. He touts on his resume the successful defense of Google “in the first use of the Virginia equivalent of the Communications Decency Act in precedent-setting litigation, obtaining immunity for blog and aggregated news content,” and he achieved a complete dismissal on numerous privacy counts in a consumer class action against Acxiom.
So why Goodwin Procter?
“I think the real takeaway is that the privacy world is a very small world, and a very dear friend accepted another position, and she introduced me to the recruiter who was saddened to miss out on her,” he said. “If you do good work, other privacy professionals look out for you.”
He called both firms outstanding: “Wilson is one of the best places in the world to serve clients and to learn how to serve clients,” he noted, but said Goodwin was attractive because of its strength in working with financial institutions and the firm’s work with a broad range of organizations, including a specialty in start-ups.
“Financial institutions’ privacy and data security needs are very particular, so having a deep and wide bench in financial institutions is a natural platform to really grow and leverage a practice that is a global destination,” he said. “These institutions have been grappling with these issues for a long time, and Goodwin has been there for a long time.”
Further, Stegmaier believes that privacy can be a honeypot that draws in new clients and keeps them around. “This move to Goodwin is an opportunity to take privacy as a boutique specialty and transform it into a destination opportunity,” he said. “Law firms that are extremely good at privacy will become destinations from which many other types of legal work will flow outward. Privacy is the tip of the spear.”
A privacy case, he said, can be “a very painful moment, and when you do good work for clients, they remain loyal.”
Where will the business come from? Stegmaier sees four particular areas of growth in the privacy industry: digital health, Internet of Things, clean and green tech and “better data,” the next evolution of Big Data.
“It’s not just enormous amounts of raw information,” he said. “As the science of information improves, the privacy concerns are only going to grow. Information that we didn’t worry about because people didn’t think it was PII will become more and more relevant.” Just the way that you type on your keyboard can identify you with 85-percent confidence, he noted.
Digital health’s potential pitfalls are more than obvious, and they are closely connected with those of the Internet of Things in general, another area posed to explode. Soon, many more things will both be connected to the Internet and logging data about individuals. For examples, “The complications of our vehicles being able to phone home at any and all times is something we’ll have to grapple with for safety and privacy and a lot of other unusual issues,” Stegmaier said.
Finally, while clean tech might not seem like fertile ground for privacy issues, Stegmaier noted, “Conservation is simply the best and fastest way to reduce consumption, and the easiest way to do that is to optimize the things that we’re already using.” Which means tracking who uses what.
There are privacy issues to be found just about everywhere in our increasingly connected world, so it’s no surprise that “it’s a really fantastic time” to be a privacy professional, Stegmaier said. “Some would even say it’s a sellers’ market if you’ve been doing privacy work for more than a decade.”