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Committee to consider lawyer’s cybersecurity responsibilities

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The Committee on Cybersecurity & Privacy Law's mission is to '“provide Florida attorneys with a continuously updated resource of cybersecurity law and regulations, news events, and focused educational seminars

Franklin Zemel

Franklin Zemel

The new Standing Committee on Cybersecurity & Privacy Law will work with other Bar committees to help lawyers appreciate the growing threat of data breaches, and how to mitigate them.

That’s the message the co-chairs stressed at the committee’s first meeting on August 24.

“We want to integrate, we’re not competing,” with the existing Standing Committee on Technology and Board Technology Committee, said Co-Chair Franklin Zemel.

Zemel, a Ft. Lauderdale attorney, is a Saul Ewing partner whose practice area focuses on cybersecurity and privacy.

Zemel said it is also important that the resources the committee develops be geared toward non-experts.

“Whatever we put out, whatever we publish…it has to be relevant to practitioners, and it has to be accessible,” Zemel said.

The cybersecurity and privacy committee’s 25 members include a Stetson University law professor, and lawyers whose practice areas focus on cybersecurity, or who have worked in IT and telecommunications industry. During an introductory session, some panel members cited IT certifications and others military experience. One worked previously for the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which is tasked with defending the nation against cyberthreats.

“We have a great group of people here with a very good skill set,” said Co-Chair Steven Teppler.

Teppler chairs Mandelbaum Barrett’s privacy and cybersecurity practice group and teaches a popular cybersecurity course at Nova Southeastern’s law school.

When the Board of Governors approved the new committee earlier this summer, President Scott Westheimer said he wanted it to serve as a technical resource that could develop best practices guides for helping members mitigate threats.

The committee webpage lists an official mission that includes “facilitate attorney awareness of cyber risks on a continuing basis,” and to “provide Florida attorneys with a continuously updated resource of cybersecurity law and regulations, news events, and focused educational seminars.”

Much of the first meeting, which was conducted via Zoom, was dedicated to introductions and discussion about committee procedure.

However, when the committee meets next in October, it is expected to begin debating whether to ask the Professional Ethics Committee for a formal opinion addressing a lawyer’s cybersecurity responsibilities.

Zemel said he is concerned that it could give some lawyers who meet the minimum standards a false sense of security.

“I would resist The Florida Bar setting minimum data security measures for lawyers,” he said.

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