The following is an excerpt from Practice Perspectives: Vault's Guide to Legal Practice Areas.
Theodore (“Ted”) J. Kobus III stands at the forefront of issues involving the life cycle of data. Under his direction, the newly launched Digital Assets and Data Management (DADM) practice group has managed thousands of data breach responses and hundreds of regulatory investigations, class action matters, and privacy/compliance projects. The launch of DADM put BakerHostetler at the forefront of the digital risks and assets space. It was the first time a BigLaw firm recognized the importance of this enterprise-wide practice group, and the media and peer firms took notice. Ted has been instrumental in creating a diverse culture within DADM, fostering a sense of inclusion and providing educational and mentorship opportunities. He created a platform that showcases the firm’s female and other diverse attorneys—more than 50 percent of DADM is female and nearly 25 percent of the firm’s attorneys are diverse—many of whom serve in leadership roles in the group. Ted is consistently ranked in Chambers and The Legal 500 and has been named an MVP by Law360 for Privacy and Consumer Protection. He is also a three-time recipient of the Cybersecurity Docket “Incident Response 30.”
Describe your practice area and what it entails.
The Digital Assets and Data Management (DADM) practice group is a convergence practice addressing enterprise risks, disputes, compliance, and opportunities through the life cycle of data, technology, advertising, and innovation, including brand strategies and monetization. The DADM group was created to mirror how our clients do business. Leveraging data and technology is a priority for most entities. We have united key service offerings and technologists to address all the risks associated with an entity’s digital assets. Our clients are collecting data and then utilizing advanced technology to transform their products and services. Doing this creates enterprise risk. Our new practice group works with our clients through the life cycle of data—privacy, security, marketing and advertising, transactions, and emerging technology—within an organization.
What types of clients do you represent?
We serve some of the largest names in retail, health care, hospitality, education, and financial services. We also work on small and midsized matters, and these are often the matters that expose us to new trends and risks. Our technologists analyze key data from our matters to help us identify trends, develop insights, and build custom tools to enable digital transformation efforts. The depth and breadth of our group’s experience are unmatched and position us to advise clients on all aspects of managing data and digital assets. Our clients include Marriott, Garmin, Chipotle, Luxottica, Bloomberg, Memorial Sloan Kettering, Claire’s, Cox, Publisher’s Clearing House, Qurate, McDonald’s, and Duke University.
What types of cases/deals do you work on?
I work on a variety of matters and oversee the various teams that support our clients. Most of my legal work involves working with the C-suite and boards regarding compliance issues. Additionally, I lead the defense of regulatory investigations by a multi-state group of attorneys general and other regulators. The other members of the practice group focus on all issues that touch the business life cycle of data, including cybersecurity, privacy, advertising, marketing, tech transactions, artificial intelligence, CCPA, GDPR, and health care compliance as well as increasing the value of data.
How did you choose this practice area?
I was a full-time litigator before I started practicing in this area over 15 years ago. I moved into this area of law because of the opportunity to assist clients with business issues. It is very fulfilling to help clients solve problems and to achieve their business objectives—particularly when they are working at brands that my family and I enjoy.
With the launch of DADM, I get to enjoy everything that revolves around the life cycle of data.
What is a typical day like and/or what are some common tasks you perform?
The year 2020 was unlike any other, causing our entire firm to work in a remote environment. My group rose to the task by embracing technology to conduct video meetings and client consultations and pitches and just generally connecting with one another. There are no typical days. Since the issues facing a company’s assets are not just legal or IT issues, we interact with a lot of other departments—human resources, finance, compliance, internal audit, marketing, consumer affairs, and others.
What training, classes, experience, or skills development would you recommend to someone who wishes to enter your practice area?
Understanding technology is extremely important. That knowledge helps with counseling clients on privacy issues related to new products. Also, a deep understanding of technology helps attorneys translate the findings of an investigation to a client or redirect the direction of the investigation. And, of course, understanding technology helps to tackle emerging issues, such as artificial intelligence and blockchain.
What is unique about your practice area at your firm?
The practice is a priority at BakerHostetler, and that is why we created the Digital Assets and Data Management practice group. As The American Lawyer pointed out, this practice is on the same level as other core groups at law firms such as tax, litigation, and business. Also, we were the only law firm to be recognized as a “Pacesetter” in this space by an independent research group associated with The American Lawyer.
What are some typical tasks that a junior lawyer would perform in this practice area?
The type of work varies by team. The one thing that is consistent throughout the teams is that there is direct contact with clients. We think that is very important. This happens in a variety of ways, whether you are working on the defense to a regulatory investigation, managing a breach response, working on consent issues involving the CCPA, or preparing discovery for a litigation we are defending.
How do you see this practice area evolving in the future?
The practice will evolve as technology evolves, and that is why we have an Emerging Tech group in this practice. Data is gold at every company, and every company is in some form a technology company. So as businesses evolve in the way they use and handle data, we too will need to evolve.
What kinds of experience can summer associates gain in this practice area at your firm?
We have had summer associates work on client matters, including compliance projects and incident response. Sometimes our summer associates help us improve the materials we use to train clients with respect to cybersecurity and privacy compliance issues. Other projects include working on surveys of laws globally and helping us prepare our annual Data Security Incident Response Report. We want them to have contact with a variety of teams and projects so that they can see what they really enjoy doing most.