Wake up lawyers! Your digital counsel is needed

Today business users and digital marketers challenge their organization’s online integrity in many ways. Lawyers can help avoid the legal and regulatory landmines that pose a threat.

Kristina Podnar
April 20, 2017

For the past 43 years, corporations and their legal counsel have been aware of network security attacks and data breaches. In 1973 Robert Metcalfe warned of how easy it was to login to ARPANET, the Internet’s predecessor. Three years later, Vinton G. Cerf and Robert E. Kahn attempted to build encryption technology but failed because of the National Security Agency’s resistance to the idea. Online security threats are nothing new.

Since the 1970s, digital (not just the web) and its legal have become more complicated in ways no one could have foreseen. Cybersecurity and hacking are important, but they are not the only risk to an organization. Lawyers and corporations should be talking about a great deal more.

Today business users and digital marketers challenge their organization’s online integrity in many ways. Many legal and regulatory landmines pose a threat including:

  • Protecting user privacy, including those of children
  • Storing personal information in the cloud that is geographically aligned with the country of user origin
  • Ensuring email campaigns are not breaking the latest Spam email (or commercial advertising) laws
  • Complying with online advertising, promotion, and payment regulations
  • Confirming all online content is accessible to those with disabilities
  • Retaining records of digital information that may arise in a lawsuit

In addition to general regulatory and legal challenges, there are industry-specific rules:

  • Information and technology export controls
  • E-Detailing and healthcare marketing
  • Digital fundraising and donations
  • Forward-looking statements and investor clauses

The list continues with “gotchas” that do not necessarily involve regulatory or legal but still pose risks to the business, such as:

  • Sound social media use
  • Proper content localization for cultural needs
  • Appropriate technology selection and development

Where do these companies turn to for help? There are very few law firms and lawyers focusing on the comprehensive digital risk span and helping businesses define necessary policies. It is more common to see counsel providing a narrow area of expertise, such as intellectual property, security and data breaches, and privacy. This leaves businesses to engage with multiple legal partners, creating potential coverage gaps.

The range of digital is vast, and the digital legal advisory needs of the business and content workers is growing. With the largest waves of online technology yet to come, including Internet of Things (IoT), chatbots, artificial intelligence, and autonomous devices, legal advice is more relevant and needed than ever before. Lawyers and legal firms — the fields are ripe, businesses are ready, and people in need of guidance, I challenge you to step up and answer the call!

Photo by Julia Caesar 

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