Phillips Nizer has landed a former New York State regulator who spearheaded trailblazing efforts to craft rules around cybersecurity and virtual currency.

Patrick J. Burke joined the New York-area firm Jan. 15 from the state’s Department of Financial Services, where he launched its Office of Financial Innovation last year. He will lead Phillips Nizer’s data technology and cybersecurity group practice.

Burke told Bloomberg Law that he anticipates he will add to Phillips Nizer’s practice group because of the growing role cybersecurity, data privacy, cryptocurrency, and blockchain will play in companies’ transactions.

This is “a seminal moment” for these areas, Burke said.

In the past few years, cybersecurity has been recognized as an big risk for companies, he said. And the European data protection law has put data privacy in the spotlight, Burke added.

Companies are on notice that it’s important to protect and share data appropriately, he said, and law firms need to be able to advise them on these efforts.

“There’s going to be a generation of lawyers practicing in these areas and I’m hoping to lead them,” he said, predicting this kind of work “is going to become standard fare.”

“And cryptocurrency is taking off while blockchain hasn’t even started to take off,” he noted.

Path to Success

Burke told Bloomberg Law that he became involved in cryptocurrency and data privacy in a roundabout manner, starting when he left Paul Weiss in the late 1990s for an internet company selling legal research. This eventually morphed into a job at Linklaters doing e-discovery, which led to yet another job working in-house with an e-discovery software maker that used its technology to search for malware. He ultimately wound up working on cybersecurity and data privacy issues in Europe.

Burke also founded the Cardozo Data Law Initiative at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City, where he served on the faculty and taught courses on information governance, and e-discovery, digital evidence and computer forensics.

Upon launching the the Office of Financial Innovation, Burke helped implement New York’s virtual currency regulation—so far the only regulation of its kind on the state level.

New York was also the first state to pass cybersecurity regulation, which Burke oversaw.

Burke said companies regulated under New York’s cryptocurrency law felt they had an advantage over those who weren’t covered because people trusted them more. “It upped their game,” he said.

As for future regulation, Burke said some states want to regulate virtual currency, while others don’t. And even though it makes sense to pass federal cybersecurity regulations, Congress hasn’t been willing to take this step, he said.

Smart contracts—contracts written in code and redistricted across a blockchain network—might be regulated more quickly, because “once those things become a contract, people are going to want to sue on them,” he said.