Future Law

ABA to Consider Privacy Competency Certification

privacy competency certificationAs concern over privacy, cyber security, and intellectual property legal issues arise, the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates is taking note. In fact, rumor has it that the ABA is considering the adoption of a new privacy competency certification as we speak.

This February, at the ABA Annual Mid-Year Meeting, the House of Delegates could potentially approve the formal accreditation of a privacy competency certification by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). Approval of this certification by the IAPP would allow eligible lawyers to market themselves as specialists in the area of privacy law without potentially violating any ethical rules.

As many of you know though, the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, typically aren’t keen on the idea of lawyers referring to themselves as a “specialist”.

Model Rule 7.4(d) states: A lawyer shall not state or imply that a lawyer is certified as a specialist in a particular field of law, unless: (1) the lawyer has been certified as a specialist by an organization that has been approved by an appropriate state authority or that has been accredited by the American Bar Association; and (2) the name of the certifying organization is clearly identified in the communication.”

Thus, the approval of this accreditation would be an exception.

To be considered for the privacy competency certification, the IAPP requires a lawyers must (be):

  •  admitted and in good standing to a U.S. state bar;
  •  attain an IAPP Certified Information Privacy Professional/United States credential;
  •  attain either an IAPP Certified Information Privacy Manager credential or a Certified Information Privacy Technology credential; and
  •  pass an ethics examination that would be developed by IAPP specifically for privacy law specialist applicants in compliance with the ABA’s accreditation standards.

Lawyers seeking the privacy competency certification must also submit peer affirmation of their substantial involvement in the practice of privacy law over a three-year period prior to their application.

At this time, there are currently 14 certification programs administered by a handful of private organizations that are accredited by the ABA.

Only time will tell if the House of Delegates adopts the proposal of this new privacy competency certification. Come February, the Commission on Professionalism will let you know the outcome. In the meantime, what do you think? Share with us in the comment section below.

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