Inside View: Vulnerability

If you could sum up 2020 in one word, what would it be? For me, the word is “vulnerability.” A superficial example that comes to mind is my “home office” setting. The assembly-required (and as-cheap-as-I-could-find-it) desk I worked at was situated about six feet from where I sleep. Through Zoom or Teams windows, clients, colleagues, and coworkers had an inside view to the limited sets of sheets I own, the frequent sight of unfolded laundry on my bed, and cameo visits from my cats. My one-year-old also occasionally assumed center-stage in meetings, negotiations, and client counseling sessions, generating a significant fan following. Our department retreat last year was markedly different when a colleague interrupted our business discussions to exclaim, “Oh my gosh, she’s walking!”

But 2020 was also a year of vulnerability in lots of un-superficial ways. COVID-19 totally rearranged and deepened my perspective on the importance of health, well-being, and intentional connection with family and friends. The death of George Floyd and the soul-shaking rumble of grief, anger, and trauma that swept through our community awoke a humbling vulnerability when it comes to confronting my biases and my privilege. And as I wonder what 2021 will bring, I find myself making a hopeful commitment to being more real, more honest, and more vulnerable, because we cannot take any new year we’re given for granted. 

And you may wonder what any of this has to do with the Hennepin Lawyer. When our committee decided back in early 2020 that the theme of this issue would be, “Privacy and the Law,” I jumped out of my chair to edit it. You see, privacy law compliance, data use, and data sharing issues are part of my practice, and as a result, I felt modestly equipped to contribute to this topic. 

Fast-forward to September 2020 when the committee gathered (via Teams) to discuss potential articles. Topics like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) or the latest Facebook case on the docket were very far from everyone’s minds, including myself.

Instead, our conversation turned toward topics that affected individuals’ very real and very vulnerable 2020 lives. Such as: What rights do employees have when an employer wants to monitor for contact-tracing? What is it like for a solo practitioner trying to preserve client confidentiality from home? How does Minnesota law cope with issues like public access to data, such as body-worn-camera footage? What does the court system and access to justice look like these days, from the perspectives of those who are in it day-in and day-out? What ethical issues should attorneys keep in mind in our now very-online world?

As a result, those are the articles you’ll find in this issue—opportunities for education, reflection, and connection. For example, every attorney in Minnesota should be aware of what the Minnesota Government Data Practices Act is and recognize our colleagues who are at the epicenter of its very practical and meaningful effects on how our community receives and processes information related to police misconduct. Given the fact that allegations of police misconduct inherently create vulnerability for so many, on all sides and in all stages of the process, it is important that we be informed of the frameworks that affect the resulting conversations and data (or limitations on data) available to the public. 

But assuming not much has changed from the time I wrote this introduction to the time this issue is published, I’ll likely be reading the final version of this issue from my assembly-required desk, with laundry laying on my bed unfolded, and cats wrestling underneath my chair. 

I will still be answering Teams calls with no background filter on, and generally awaiting all of the changes 2021 will hopefully bring. 

Megan Bowman
mbowman@fredlaw.com
January/February Issue Editor

Megan Bowman is an associate at Fredrikson & Byron, where she advises clients on technology and data issues. She is also a Certified Legal Project Manager and graduate of the University of St. Thomas School of Law.