Q&A with GWLAA Board of Directors, Barry Nigro and Howard Reissner
Q: What is the Specialized Curriculum committee and why was it started?
HR: We formed this new committee after several discussions with friend and colleague Barry Nigro, Esq. about how to provide law students and young alumni with specialized knowledge that will give them a competitive advantage in the legal marketplace. We believe that particularly in small to mid-size law firms and corporations that have limited resources, an attorney who can lead in areas such as privacy, cyber-security, forensics, compliance, regulatory, and data management will enhance their chances of long term employment.
A key part of this approach will be to introduce the group to thought leaders and experts in diverse areas of the legal field. Specifically, the initial thoughts were to invite those who can discuss new developments in technology that will have an impact on the legal profession. The goal of this committee is to identify leading edge legal issues that are under-addressed at GW Law, and develop seminars of approximately one hour focusing on specific topics that will teach practical utilities and skills. I welcome the participation of fellow Board members who would be interested in designing, developing and participating in this program over the next several months.
BN: As Howard explained, the committee was created to facilitate the enrichment of our GW Law community through a series of specialized programs. It is a new committee; I expect it will evolve as we learn what works and what our alumni want and need. I am looking forward to watching it grow.
Q: What is the committee’s primary goal?
HR: We want to help prepare law students and young alums with the tools to compete in this highly competitive legal environment. These experts can share their experiences and specific domain expertise to assist in the preparation for professional life. The intention is to provide guidance, knowledge and skills that will be differentiators in this competitive job market. We also can assist more experienced alumni in maintaining and enhancing skill knowledge in these leading edge areas of the legal practice.
Q: How important is this type of “real-world” instruction to students and alumni?
BN: It is critical. Being a successful, and happy, lawyer is not just about good grades and passing the bar. GW Law School recognizes this and has instituted a number of programs for law students to prepare them for success in the real world. I think of the Specialized Curriculum as going a step further by continuing to provide access to this type of practical programming after law school.
HR: This type of practical instruction is critical for success today’s ever evolving legal environment. Most national law schools teach basic legal theory and focus on a course of study that prepares students for Bar exams and then legal practice in large, structured law firms. Only a few law schools have embraced the need to offer real world practical training that will enable young lawyers to provide valuable skills that can be applied at the outset of their careers, especially at smaller law firms and corporations.
Q: Tell us about the inaugural event.
HR: The inaugural event was held on September 20 at Holland & Knights Washington, DC office. We were incredibly lucky to have Sherri Davidoff, CEO of LMG Security present. Sherri noted that we are constantly reminded of the ever-changing ways to create data, store data, hide data, move data, secure data, send data, receive data, AND HACK DATA. In the corporate world, all that data could potentially be needed in litigation, investigations, due diligence, compliance, or even worse it could be BREACHED. For this committee’s first session, there could be no timelier nor important topic than Cyber Security, as there was most likely another new headline today.
Q: What challenges are new attorneys faced with in the current digital data age?
BN: The “social media” generation has grown up in an environment in which people share far more information about themselves and those with whom they interact than ever before. As lawyers, however, we have an obligation to protect client confidences. Navigating the tension between technology that promotes sharing as a default and our ethical obligations to preserve confidentiality is a challenge.
HR: Volumes of data are multiplying by the nanosecond, along with new ways to create data, and increasingly, more people intent on hacking into the information for a variety of purposes, unfortunately, most of them with nefarious intent. Lawyers are ethically and practically required to have knowledge of these constantly evolving issues, not only to protect their own and their client’s information, but to also to competently advise these issues.
Q: What was the response to the inaugural session?
BN: It was fantastic. We had a good mix of alumni, mostly from the Washington DC area. In addition to enjoying a great substantive program, this event provided a good networking opportunity.
HR: There was a good mixture of new graduate, attorneys at the beginning of their career and experienced attorneys, and a Judge! The response to the program was outstanding. No one looked at their phones for almost an hour, for fear of missing any of the compelling topics such as hack prevention, post hack response, data security, and cyber-crimes and the manner in which they are initiated. There were many questions throughout the program and many people remained afterwards to continue the dialogue.
Q: What type of sessions will be held in the future?
HR: Our goal is to have regular sessions featuring more speakers from the Cyber Security sector, as well as domain subject matter experts in Privacy, Compliance, Discovery, and other leading edge areas of the law. We also plan to have sessions in other markets such as New York, Boston and Philadelphia.
Q: What benefit do these types of sessions provide to alumni?
HR: The most obvious benefit is that alumni will continue to feel connected to GW Law School, and recognize that the school experience and benefits continue throughout their lives. A secondary benefit is the knowledge that these programs will provide, enabling the alumni to enhance their potential of their professional goals.
BN: I agree with Howard. Our hope is that through more programs like this we can engage our alumni and equip them with practical knowledge that they can use in their law practice.
Bernard (Barry) A. Nigro Jr., Esq.
Chair, Antitrust Practice Group – Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson LLP (Washington, DC)
President – George Washington Law Alumni Association (JD ’86)
Vice Chair, Section of Antitrust Law – American Bar Association
Howard J. Reissner, Esq.
Chief Executive Officer – Planet Data
Chair of Specialized Curriculum – George Washington University Law Alumni Association (JD ’79)