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The demand for lawyers who understand privacy is high -- and will only get higher in the years ahead.

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 14, 2018
Updated: Monday, May 14, 2018

Privacy (via Getty Images)

I speak often at law schools, and law students ask me for career advice. One common question I get: what’s a “hot” area of law — in other words, a practice area where I might be able to get a job?

It’s an understandable question, given the challenges that some law students and graduates face in their job searches, but I often end up dodging. I ask the questioner: what areas of law are you interested in, and what subjects are you good at? If you are interested in and excited about a specific practice area, you’re more likely to have a successful career as a lawyer — more likely than someone who picks a practice just because it’s “hot.”

But if you put a gun to my head and forced me to give a direct answer, then I guess I’d paraphrase that guy from The Graduate: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Privacy. There’s a great future in privacy law. Think about it. Will you think about it?”

My view of privacy law’s bright future has only increased from attending this year’s Global Privacy Summit, hosted by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) in Washington, D.C. The Summit draws roughly 3,500 attendees each year, and its opening session, held this morning in the cavernous main hall of the Washington Convention Center, was packed — a standing-room-only crowd, to hear the keynotes of Monica Lewinsky, who needs no introduction, and Jon Ronson, author of So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed (affiliate link).

After Lewinsky’s and Ronson’s engaging presentations, IAPP’s president and CEO, J. Trevor Hughes, took the stage to offer welcoming remarks. He announced that IAPP, the world’s largest association of privacy professionals, now boasts more than 38,000 members in 107 countries around the world, with 120 cities having local their own local IAPP chapters. (About 3,500 members attend the Privacy Summit each year.)

“Make no mistake,” Hughes said. “The privacy profession has arrived.”

What’s driving the boom in privacy law and the ranks of privacy professionals? Certainly major social and technological changes are behind it, but there’s also a more specific catalyst: the GDPR, the European Union’s sweeping regulation of data privacy, which takes effect on May 25. Among its many requirements, the GDPR mandates that every organization have a Data Protection Officer (DPO) — who is often a privacy lawyer.

Thanks to GDPR, the membership of IAPP in Europe has exploded. Last year the organization had 4,000 members in Europe, according to Hughes, and now it has more than 10,000 — which led IAPP to establish a physical presence in Europe, with an office in Brussels and a half-dozen or so employees on the ground.

Another sign that privacy law is now “a thing”: at its most recent Midyear Meeting, the American Bar Association (ABA) approved a resolution on the IAPP’s Privacy Law Specialist accreditation, for a five-year term.

“With this vote, lawyers who wish to distinguish themselves from the crowd and demonstrate to potential employers or clients that they have taken extra steps to develop privacy law credentials have an opportunity to do so,” said IAPP Research Director Rita Heimes. In the states that recognize the ABA’s accreditation of law specialty certification programs, which is roughly half the states, lawyers who have been accredited as privacy-law specialists by IAPP will be able to hold themselves out as such.

Despite the tremendous rise in the number of privacy professionals, more will be required. According to Hughes, there are positions for an estimated 75,000 chief privacy officers (CPOs) — roughly double the current worldwide membership of IAPP. Because of this shortfall, a highly qualified CPO candidate is the so-called “purple squirrel” to recruiters, Hughes said.

“To meet the needs of the market today, we have to build, create, and train the next generation of privacy specialists,” Trevor Hughes told the Global Privacy Summit attendees. “Our work matters — and your work matters.”

Original post can be found HERE.

David Lat is editor at large and founding editor of Above the Law, as well as the author of Supreme Ambitions: A Novel. He previously worked as a federal prosecutor in Newark, New Jersey; a litigation associate at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz; and a law clerk to Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. You can connect with David on Twitter (@DavidLat)LinkedIn, and Facebook, and you can reach him by email at

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