James “Jim” Koenig’s resume doesn’t read like a typical Big Law attorney’s CV.
Koenig studied science and finance at MIT as an undergrad and was a founding member of three startups. He also led the development of business ventures at QVC, worked as a privacy consultant for PwC for a decade, and co-founded the International Association of Privacy Professionals, which now has more than 50,000 members.
Koenig spent nearly two years at Paul Hastings as an attorney with the firm’s privacy, cybersecurity & data analytics practice before Fenwick & West recruited him in 2017.
Fenwick wanted to revamp its privacy and cybersecurity practice, and partners were attracted to Koenig’s unique background in business, law, and consulting. But he had one requirement before joining: that the firm let him handpick a cross-disciplinary team of lawyers and industry experts who would work exclusively on cyber and privacy issues.
Within 18 months, Koenig has built a 30-member strong team that he has dubbed the “Justice League of Privacy and Cyber Professionals.”
When he joined Fenwick, which represents a number of technology, financial services, and biotech and life sciences companies, Koenig said the firm had a strong but traditional legal privacy practice.
“They had several lawyers in litigation, and several tech transaction lawyers, but they were all lawyers who handle privacy as part of their other work,” he said.
The problem at Big Law firms, including Fenwick, is that they tend to treat cyber and privacy work as add-ons, and tend not to be integrated into other practices, he said.
“Fenwick’s privacy practice wasn’t proactive. It wasn’t driving new business,” he said.
Part of the reason Fenwick hired him, said Koenig, was that it realized that having a leading privacy practice was essential to being able to handle the increasing innovative data uses of its entrepreneurial clients, including artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomous vehicles, gaming, digital health, cryptocurrency and more. And building out its privacy and cybersecurity practice was a natural complement to the other technology and life science leading practices offered by Fenwick.
Koenig sought to create a comprehensive practice that would serve existing clients and attract new ones by providing services that would assess, counsel, and implement proactive programs.
His first priority was to appoint a co-chair. “I’m not a litigator, and in order to have a one-stop shop, I knew we needed a full-time cyber litigator,” he said.
Koenig tapped Tyler Newby, a former trial attorney in the computer crime and intellectual property section at the Justice Department. He then recruited chief privacy and information security officers, and consultants from health care, technology, and financial services.
He also tapped lawyers who had worked for, or on behalf of government agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
Koenig, whose past and current clients include Facebook, Inc., Google LLC, and Uber Technologies, Inc., said that a lot of his hires came from former clients or “former staff members of mine.”
Team members include a former chief security officer at Schering Plough, and 20 former privacy officers from companies such as MetLife Inc., Merck & Co, Inc., JP Morgan Chase & Co., Ubisoft Entertainment SA, and AstraZeneca Plc. All but six of his now 30-member team hold law degrees.
“I hire people based on their super powers with different industry experience,” he said.
Koenig credits Fenwick’s willingness to let his team operate under conditions that few, if any, law firms permit.
Most team members work remotely, and some work part-time. While most work traditional hours, several team members have tailored schedules to fit their personal needs.
“I’ve hired people who have left the workforce, and people with family or other issues that need more flexibility in their work schedules. When you add that in with good money and the prestige of working at a top law firm, you can pick better talent,” he said. “But client service and availability are required to come first.”
His strategy appears to be paying off. Since joining Fenwick, Koenig says the firm has significantly expanded the range of services it offers to existing and new clients. Last year, the firm had 250 privacy and cyber clients, and Koenig says it will have at least 300 by the end of the year.
“We’ve built this collaborative team of superstars and industry leaders from across almost 20 industries,” he said. “That’s why it’s been a runaway success.”