Aren’t Lawyers Always Supposed To Be Stressed?

Google the words “lawyer” and “stress” or “anxiety” and you’ll see hundreds of comics about lawyers dealing with stress. Most of the comics are pretty funny and yet somewhat sad because they are also all pretty true to real life. Just last month the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being released a report entitled “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change.” The report is intended to bring more pointed awareness to the mental health issues many lawyers face and to also provide recommendations to instill greater well-being in the profession as a whole.

The report is 73 pages in total, which appears to create a daunting read for lawyers and law students, already over-burdened and stressed out. But it is worth the time to read through it. As the report points out, in a study released in 2016 by the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation, out of nearly 13,000 practicing lawyers who participated in the survey, 28% struggled with some level of depression, 19 percent struggled with some level of anxiety, and 23 percent struggled with some level of stress. In Wisconsin, there were approximately 15,550 active lawyers in 2017.

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Dealing with the Aftermath of  Yet Another Data Breach . . . Bring in the Lawyers

A couple weeks ago someone asked me what “area of law” is currently a big litigation area in civil law. My immediate response was data breach / data privacy. And within a couple days we all learned that Equifax had suffered a data breach and hackers had accessed up to 143 million customer account details, including names, Social Security numbers, driver licenses, and credit card numbers. Just take a look at the Identity Theft Resource Center’s website and you’ll see that data breaches are growing rapidly year in and year out. Just take a look at the list put out by WIRED of data breaches in 2017 and you’ll see names like Verizon and Chipotle. And, as the Equifax breach shows, no company appears safe.

Data breaches, like the Equifax breach, create numerous legal issues that produce a fair amount of litigation. First, if the hackers can be tracked down, you have companies suing the hackers.  Second, you have class actions by the customers or consumers whose information was taken against the companies who were hacked. Those typical class-action lawsuits involve questions such as, what policies did the company have in place to prevent the hack and to detect the hack, did the company follow those policies, and how quickly did the company act upon learning of the hack. From what we know regarding the Equifax breach, the breached lasted for two and a half months and Equifax was aware of the potential breach point before it was hacked. So Equifax will be litigating whether its policies and actions were “reasonable” in light of industry standards and what it knew and when. Third, you may have a litigation fight between Equifax and its insurers if Equifax believes its insurance covered data breaches resulting from negligence. There the insurers will argue that language does not cover the breach while Equifax will argue the language does cover the breaches. 

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‘Click’ . . . You Just Agreed To Sell Your Privacy

We have all gone to a website and, in accessing the website’s services, have agreed to “terms and conditions” that include a litany of policies, including privacy policies governing how the company maintaining the website will use our personal information obtained while accessing the website. And let’s be honest, even as attorneys or soon-to-be-attorneys, many of us usually do not actually take the time to read the laundry list of items we are agreeing to just so we can obtain a 20% coupon.  I know I’m guilty of regularly clicking “I agree” without reading every term and condition.

cartoon image of a desktop computerWhile we may think our assent to a website’s terms and conditions has little effect on our everyday life, our agreement does in fact matter, and not just for us but also for the company maintaining the website.  For example, one such specific website that most, if not all, of us have used is Facebook. While, again, we likely have not paid very close attention to Facebook’s privacy policies such as its data and cookie policies, those policies explain that Facebook uses cookies or browser fingerprinting to identify users and track what third-party websites users browse.  This use of cookies or browser fingerprinting is why you see ads for products or services that are, or at least should be, most relevant to you.  Indeed, these processes are why I now regularly see ads for Nintendo products when on Facebook after having searched for and purchase Nintendo’s handheld 3DS video game system for my ten year old son.

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