By Michael Canfield, originally published in Buffalo Law Journal / Buffalo Business First on May 14, 2018, 9:12am EDT.
BLJ: When Law and Technology Converge
Attorney Jennifer Beckage knows a thing or two about technology and cybersecurity.
Before becoming a lawyer, she ran a successful tech company and now she is immersed in the daily changes that occur in the field of cybersecurity.
In fact, Cybersecurity Docket recently named her among the nation’s top 30 incident response attorneys. She’s the only attorney in Upstate New York on the list.
“I am incredibly proud to be recognized among attorneys of this caliber as part of the Incident Response 30,” said Beckage, a partner at Phillips Lytle. “The honor is a testament to our Data Security and Privacy Team, which continues to provide 24/7 response and cutting-edge service in this rapidly developing and changing arena.”
The law firm’s managing partner, Kevin Hogan, said the recognition is well-earned for Beckage and the team she leads.
“Our Data Security and Privacy Team works tirelessly to provide client service excellence in a very complex and quickly evolving area of law,” he said.
A Certified Information Privacy Professional, Beckage grew up in Texas but fell in love with Buffalo years ago while visiting friends and family. She eventually moved here and started a tech company.
“It’s one of the greatest places to live,” she said. “Not only are we a central hub … we have these Great Lakes and fresh water and fishing and music, an art scene, great universities and mostly the people. The people here are great.”
Her company provided website design, web content and email services.
“This was the late ‘90s, early 2000s,” she said. “It was more of a time where people were just getting online, having shopping carts, e-commerce solutions and using what – at that time – was really disruptive technology. Getting more away from brick-and-mortar businesses and going to online presences and using technology in new ways that they had never used before.”
It was also a time when knowledge of programming language and code was needed to be able to put content online. Now anyone can post to social media platforms.
“It was a really exciting time to be in that space,” Beckage said. “Everything was very fast moving. New laws and regulations, constantly moving. It was fast-paced and exciting times.”
When her business was sold to a publicly traded company, she was retained in a vice president role to oversee the online division in 11 states.
“Again, it was quick-moving, fast product development, much like we’re seeing today. You think it, you have to be in the market quickly. First to market was always critical and important,” she said.
From there, Beckage went to the University at Buffalo School of Law, graduating in 2007.
“I was always interested in going and having that real-life business experience really drove me to want to help others in similar situations. When I’m providing legal advice, I’m also thinking like the business owner and what makes sense for the business and taking a practical approach.”
Beckage had once been the client so she knew what to expect.
“We had vendors, we had employees, we went through the due diligence of selling a business,” she said. “We had all the same issues and concerns that I do today for my clients.”
Being an attorney at the convergence of law and technology was a true honor, she added. At Phillips Lytle, she assists clients with a range of technical and cybersecurity issues.
“Regulatory compliance, data security, privacy laws, vendor contracts, whether it’s moving things to the cloud or working with another vendor, to incident response – showing up, boots on the ground,” she said.
In terms of incident response, she has handled cases nationally and internationally.
“We have responded to a lot of different incidents,” she said. “Small, large and everything in between. All types of data at issue. Sophisticated cases, all different types of bad guys and mistakes.”
When there is an incident, people generally want to do the right thing, according to Beckage.
“There are a lot of moving parts. It’s very complicated and I think everyone is just trying to do the right thing,” she said.
Being proactive is important when it comes to incident response, Beckage said, adding, “Preparation, preparation, preparation.”
She’s constantly “tuned in” to keep abreast of what’s happening in data security and privacy.
“I don’t sleep,” she said with a laugh. “We’re a watchdog on these issues. We have a very large team here and we’re spread across all the market cities that we operate in. We’re always watching what’s going on. It’s not unusual for us to hear about things that could impact a client, and we’ve had situations where we’ve been first to bring something that’s going on to someone’s attention.”
To her, it’s not work: “What a gift to have this opportunity to do what I love,” she said.
With such things as Blockchain technology and cryptocurrency having greater usage, Beckage said it’s reminiscent of when she started her company and everything was new.
“I’m excited about all the new technologies that are being deployed. Everything is going to be tweaked,” she said. “These things aren’t off-the-shelf and they’re plug-and-play. (It’s) evaluating how they’re going to work with your business, how they’re going to work with your existing partnerships, how your employees are going to be trained, how your customers are going to interface with them. There’s a lot of moving parts, but I think it’s a really exciting time.”
Disruptive technology could be good for the region, as well.
“There are a lot of great businesses here that can help support that space,” she said.