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If your computer gets hacked, you’d probably call a cybersecurity expert rather than a lawyer. However, a June 20 agreement between Merchants Information Solutions and law firm Jackson Lewis ensures that legal advice will be part of Merchants’ response when data breaches strike its customers.
Under the arrangement, subscribers to Merchants’ SmartIDentity for Business Program can contact Jackson Lewis’ cybersecurity experts and breach coaches for legal counsel if a data incident occurs.
This arrangement is “the first program in the country” to offer legal services as part of “a bundled program” in data breach response, Merchants Vice President for Marketing Robert Ward told Bloomberg BNA June 20. “These small businesses don’t have the financial resources to reach out to a firm” like Jackson Lewis, he said. Merchants will pay up to a specified amount for its subscribers when legal assistance is necessary. After that, a subscriber can choose to pay for more legal services.
A tangle of regulations governs a company’s responsibilities after a data breach. Not only do 48 states have their own regulations, but federal regulations may come into play as well. For example, Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act regulations may apply to a breach at a health-care provider.
A company that does business in five states needs to be familiar with the regulations in each state, Ward said. Jackson Lewis would be aware of the various state requirements and be able to provide sample letters for subscribers to use in notifying affected employees or customers. “Having someone like Jackson Lewis adds clarity,” Ward said.
“The idea is that there’s a need for counsel to help them understand what their legal obligations are” when a breach happens, Joseph Lazzarotti of Jackson Lewis told Bloomberg BNA June 20. Lazzarotti, who heads the firm’s privacy, e-communication and data security practice, said Jackson Lewis’ strength in employment law is an asset because data breaches often are traceable to a company employee who lost a laptop or sent an e-mail to the wrong person.
Bloomberg Law’s Litigation Analytics tool shows that 74.5 percent of the federal cases in which Jackson Lewis entered an appearance in the past year involved non-ERISA labor and employment law cases.
“Having a breach response plan in place lowers the cost of the breach,” Mark Pribish, Merchants vice president and identity theft practice leader, told Bloomberg BNA June 20. “Without it, it’s like buying auto insurance after you have an accident.”
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