“Technology is baked into almost every type of organization, we all rely on some software or hardware on an hourly basis these days. It’s not just about data security incidents, it’s about operational process. You’ve got to be able to be a sponge and take it all in – not just reacting to immediate needs but asking, what are your clients going to need five or 10 years from now?”
Before law school, Jennifer Beckage ’07 flourished as an entrepreneur, owning and running a successful technology business and helping to lead its sale to a publicly traded company. So when she founded Beckage PLLC in 2018, she understood, more than most, the importance of providing clients with practical legal advice on data privacy and data security issues.
Now her law firm does everything from helping global companies with regulatory compliance, managing their tech vendors and setting up incident response procedures, to being on call in a crisis, even to representing companies in subsequent litigation.
“We’re extraordinarily passionate about privacy and technology and its intersection with the law, which is the sole focus of our practice,” says Beckage, whose firm employs experienced attorneys, technologists and other staff and has offices in Buffalo and New York City. “The legal landscape is changing very quickly, and there are a host of international and national regulations on privacy issues. We keep up with these regulations and laws so we can let clients know what we are seeing and help them navigate it.
“Whether as a lawyer or a business owner, I’ve always focused on the role technology plays, because if your business is avoiding technology and innovation than your business will have difficulty competing,” Beckage says. “I’ve been the client – I’ve run the fast-moving company, and I’ve needed to know what new technologies can do. I needed to scale businesses and understand the risks, including legal risks and legal protections. I realized there’s a lot of benefit to understanding the laws as a business owner. It was just a natural progression to go from tech business into tech law.”
After her law school graduation, she worked at two major regional law firms handling complex business litigation, and as a partner created her last firm’s data security and privacy team before striking out on her own. She is one of the first attorneys in Upstate New York to be certified by the International Association of Privacy Professionals as a Certified Information Privacy Professional for both Europe and the United States.
And her work has been recognized by her peers nationwide. In 2019, for the second consecutive year, the trade group Cybersecurity Docket named her one of the top 30 lawyers nationally for data breach response, making her one of a handful of people to earn the national recognition twice and the first UB School of Law alumni to ever receive the honor. She does a lot of speaking at forums around data security, sharing information and best practices with lawyers and other professionals.
Her unique tech-focused law firm focuses on three key areas. The first is preparatory and preventive: working with clients to make sure they and their vendors comply with international, national and state data security and privacy regulations, setting up IT policies and procedures, and structuring privacy programs. The second involves incident response: Should a breach occur, Beckage moves quickly as a first responder, coordinating teams of people, managing the public relations response, and handling any required notifications and reporting. And third, as litigation becomes necessary, the firm represents clients in federal and state courts and helps them respond to agency inquiries about their practices.
“I’ve had the opportunity to work on some of the largest data incidents and deal with novel issues of law,” she says. “We think we really leverage all that experience to give great advice.”
It’s a niche specialization that’s growing rapidly, bolstered by recent high-profile data breaches and the complex regulatory environment around information security and privacy. And Beckage says tech issues can’t be separated from the rest of a business’s operations.
“Technology is baked into almost every type of organization, we all rely on some software or hardware on an hourly basis these days,” she says. “It’s not just about data security incidents, it’s about operational process. You’ve got to be able to be a sponge and take it all in – not just reacting to immediate needs but asking, what are your clients going to need five or 10 years from now?”
Beckage says her experience at UB School of Law made it possible to pursue this quickly evolving field wherever it takes her. “I was very proud to have gone to UB for law school,” she says. “I had a great experience there. I learned to think like a lawyer and used my first-hand experience to apply legal solutions to the business problems. I made some great contacts and relationships, and I learned a lot about networking and collaboration at the law school.
“It’s not a traditional path,” she says. “I pivoted from my technology career into law, and then from traditional law to a women-owned, technology-focused law firm. UB School of Law gave me the confidence to do that.”