McDermott nabs Jenner's data privacy co-chair as demand stays hot

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REUTERS/Toby Melville

(Reuters) - McDermott Will & Emery is growing its privacy and cybersecurity group with litigator David Saunders, who joins the firm in Chicago from Jenner & Block, where he was a practice co-chair.

Chicago-based McDermott is the latest firm in recent months to expand its privacy and cybersecurity practice, which the firm in a Wednesday statement announcing Saunders' hire called "in-demand and expanding."

The recent churn has included a number of practice leaders like Saunders. McDermott lost its global head of privacy and cybersecurity last week when partner Laura Jehl jumped to Willkie Farr & Gallagher to co-chair the practice there. The 1,200-lawyer firm now lists the global head as Todd McClelland, who joined the firm from Jones Day when McDermott opened an Atlanta office in May 2020 with seven lawyers from other firms.

"Today's digital world can pose incredible risks for businesses as they fight to protect their assets while maintaining compliance with a fast-evolving legal landscape," McClelland said in a statement. "David's perspective through the lens of a litigator will help clients at the earliest possible phase avoid, detect — and when necessary, defend against — privacy and cybersecurity risks."

Saunders said he was drawn to McDermott for several reasons, including its "success in having been able to build out and market around their regulatory practices." He also cited the firm's geographic footprint, particularly in Europe.

His move brings an opportunity for McDermott to "get some of the litigation that is out there," Saunders said. His practice focuses on advising companies on regulatory compliance and investigations, data incident response and managing biometric and other privacy litigation, according to the firm.

One trend Saunders said he is watching is state activity on privacy laws in the absence of federal legislation.

California made waves when it became the first state to enact comprehensive consumer privacy legislation in 2018 with the California Consumer Privacy Act, which took effect in January 2020. Other states followed California's lead and introduced privacy bills of varying scope, but many of those have stalled.

Earlier this year, Virginia passed the Consumer Data Protection Act. Other states, such as New York, Washington and Florida, have also weighed legislation this year.

"We will continue to see those state laws," Saunders said, and helping clients understand potential new obligations is "going to be a really big need."

Saunders practiced at Jenner, where he was also a member of the firm's complex commercial litigation practice, for nearly 14 years, according to his LinkedIn page. Jenner's co-managing partners Katya Jestin and Randy Mehrberg in a statement said they "wish David well and thank him for his contributions to the firm.”.

Read More:

Another privacy leader swaps firms as McDermott practice head jumps to Willkie

Virginia privacy legislation could rekindle action in other states

Privacy and data security lawyers bask in high demand as firms play tug of war

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