Attorney Spotlight: Anthony McFarland

March 7, 2016

Tony McFarland spotlight1. Tell us about your practice.

Like all young attorneys at the time, I started out as a “catfish lawyer,” handling whatever matter came up. The economic recession of the early 1980s, when the prime interest rate rose as high as 21.5%, precipitated numerous lawsuits against banks, several of which were our clients. I started defending financial institutions against all types of claims, brought by individuals and by class plaintiffs, and have done so ever since. Our client representatives are genuinely good people who care about their customers. However, when a deal goes awry or a borrower’s business fails, the bank is often targeted as the cause. Helping the client convey the true story is often challenging, but always gratifying.

During roughly the past five years a substantial part of my practice has dealt with cyber security and cyber liability issues, especially instances where our clients suffer a data breach. The practice is particularly interesting because breach response must be immediate, fluid and flexible, yet deliberate, all at a frenetic pace. It is especially rewarding to steer a client through an unexpected crisis, with which they have no prior experience, in a way which, ideally, never becomes known outside the company.

2. Why did you choose to pursue a career in the legal field?

There was never an epiphany event or an “ah hah!” moment or road to Damascus experience. Rather, from my earliest memory I only ever considered being “a lawyer.” I suspect Perry Mason episodes, where analytical thinking and dogged perseverance guaranteed that right prevailed, had an influence. And I was inherently drawn to a profession whose primary purpose is to ensure justice and fairness.

There had been no lawyers on either side of my family. Nevertheless, my mother (who already had a Ph.D.) began taking courses at a night law school; she and I thereafter received our law degrees just three months apart.

The television series The Paper Chase started the same year I began law school. I have genuinely enjoyed practicing law; however, Professor Kingsfield’s withering stares and humiliating questioning of unprepared law students nearly scared the profession out of me before it began. Fortunately, the show was instrumental in ensuring I concentrated on my studies.

3. You frequently offer insights on data security and privacy issues. How have these types of issues impacted your clients in the last two years?
In today’s cyber security environment, our clients are in an untenable position. They’re trying to address business needs, comply with regulatory requirements and deal with financial constraints, all while facing the risk of a crippling cyberattack or other data privacy loss event. There are some basic precautions which they can (and should) take to begin erecting cyber barriers, such as requiring rotating complex passwords, instituting multi-factor authentication procedures, encrypting USB (thumb) drives, installing virus protection on smartphones, disabling automatic connection to public wireless networks, performing frequent backups, implementing mobile device management, and conducting regular security training. No matter how much money our clients throw at cyber threats, however, they cannot guarantee their employees, their business partners or their customers complete safety from a cyber-intrusion. Every one of our clients is daily prey of those with nothing but time on their hands and dollar signs in their eyes. One piece of advice we do provide clients is that they can achieve some minimal degree of safety merely by being less vulnerable than other targets. No company can outrun the fastest hackers, but it certainly must outrun its competitors.