In its annual forecast of the hottest practice areas in the coming year, Law360 identified cybersecurity and data privacy, and crisis management as practice areas primed to skyrocket in 2020 as in-house legal departments turn to specialized lawyers to help navigate the uncertainty of nascent industries and respond to new demands from the government and the public.

Cybersecurity will continue to be an area with seismic activity in 2020. U.S. requirements are expected to take center stage with clients globally, beginning with the January rollout of the California Consumer Privacy Act or CCPA. The measures come in the wake of the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation or GDPR that took effect in May 2018.

Additionally, New York’s Stop Hacks and Improve Electronic Data Security Act opens the door to significantly enhanced liability for companies based in the state, as well as those that collect data from any New York resident.

The portion of the New York law that broadens the state's breach notification requirements went into effect in October, and the new requirement that companies adopt reasonable safeguards to protect state residents' data is slated to go live in March.

As more breaches and high-profile cyberattacks occur, regulations will continue to pop up as the year progresses, said Cassandra Lentchner, senior counsel of cybersecurity and regulatory compliance at Pillsbury. As a result, law firms will be busy helping clients advise on, create and improve their cybersecurity and data protection programs to be in compliance with new standards.

Another area that experts think will see increased activity in 2020 is crisis management, due to a greater frequency of corporate dilemmas, according to Law360. Law firms will need to provide innovative and useful services in this area to their clients, whose needs are becoming more complicated, said Amanda Halter, a Houston partner and co-leader of Pillsbury’s Crisis Management team.

In her practice, Halter said she’s noticed there's more of a desire from clients for increased crisis preparedness. More companies are realizing they need to go beyond an emergency response plan and develop a broader corporate response strategy. Beyond putting out the fire, they must also consider the other implications of any given crisis scenario, she said.

"I think there is a growing acceptance that corporate crisis is part of the new normal," Halter said. "It's not if you're going to have a crisis; it's when."

Experts say the needs of clients are changing largely because of the emergence of and advancements in big data and technology. And employees can now air their grievances, organize around their discontent and demand action on a large scale.

As a result, the decisions that general counsel make in the immediate aftermath of a crisis can be crucial  to companies successfully weathering the storm.

"A corporate crisis is one tweet away or one employee-organization-on-Facebook scenario away," Halter said. "Errors have the capacity to be surfaced and magnified much more quickly than in the past."

Published by: Law360

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