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What does a Privacy Attorney do?

By Jo Brooks
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A privacy attorney is one who represents clients who believe that their legal right to privacy has been violated by either individuals, groups, or the government. Other names for a privacy attorney include privacy lawyer and privacy counsel. Because violations can occur in many areas of human activity, the practice of a privacy attorney may coexist with any number of traditional legal specialties, such as business, financial, communication, employment, or criminal law.

Evolution of the Internet has brought with it increased opportunities for spying, meddling, and intrusion into the personal lives of people. Most privacy attorneys play an important role in helping clients fight violations regarding credit history, employment and medical records, e-mail and computer monitoring, and identity theft. They also may help in cases that involve other forms of electronic abuse, as well.

The clients of a privacy attorney may be either individuals or companies, and some large corporations now keep a privacy attorney on staff. Many times, a privacy attorney will review contract provisions regarding security and confidentiality, and comment on, or propose, changes to those provisions. They might be called on to collect and analyze data, as well as collaborate with others to develop policies, procedures, or an overall privacy strategy.

Some privacy attorneys help ensure compliance with data privacy regulations, and might managing any privacy breaches that occur. Duties of a privacy attorney could include handling complaints and data transfer problems, as well. Reviewing a company’s handling of confidential information could fall within their job requirements where they might recommend any improvements.

People seeking to become privacy attorneys typically should possess knowledge of, and experience in, the field of data protection, local and national law, and information technology. Analytical, project management, and written communications skills usually are desired, as well. Typical educational requirements usually include a bachelor’s degree in law from an accredited law school and admission to the bar.

Some employers hire privacy officers, who are not necessarily lawyers. Privacy officers possess much of the same knowledge regarding privacy laws and practices as privacy attorneys, but they typically are not lawyers. A few employers might request a Certified Information Privacy Professional (CIPP), which can be obtained from the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP).

For any lawyer interested in becoming a privacy attorney, postgraduate courses on data privacy usually are offered by institutions including schools of law. Non-attorneys who have an interest in the field usually can take the classes, as well. Some of these courses are accredited and can culminate in a bachelor's degree or an LLM (Master of Laws) degree.

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