Cybersecurity Law, Risk Management and Dream Dinner Guests

A conversation with Darius Davenport, managing partner at Crenshaw, Ware & Martin, PLC

by Beth Hester

Photo by Will Hawkins

Darius Davenport is managing partner at Crenshaw, Ware & Martin, PLC, and Chairman of the Government and Public Sector and Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Practice Groups. He’s also one of CoVaBIZ’s 2024 Top Lawyer honorees. In addition to practicing in the realm of maritime and admiralty law, his cybersecurity and data privacy work focuses on helping clients navigate the rapidly evolving landscape of data privacy law and cyber risk mitigation.

Davenport is also an accomplished author, and he regularly presents on cybersecurity topics. We recently asked him to share with us a bit about his practice, his thoughts about cybersecurity and risk management and, of course, his dream dinner guests.

CoVaBIZ: Among other distinctions, you’re chairman of your firm’s robust Cybersecurity and Data Privacy Practice Group, and you actively practice in that space. What drew you to cybersecurity and data privacy as an area of focus?

Darius Davenport: Traditionally Crenshaw, Ware & Martin was known as a maritime and public sector law firm. However, over time we grew into a much more diversified full-service business law firm. Around 2015, we asked ourselves a question: Were we providing all of the services that a modern business needs? We realized that data security was an emerging threat and that a modern business’s data and technology infrastructure had become the critical platform upon which a business functions. For example, our programs, plans, ideas, communications, intellectual property etc., are all stored on our computer hard drives and in our emails. When you take away or compromise a business’s critical infrastructure, it can’t function. So we decided that we needed to develop the legal services needed to protect the critical elements of our client’s businesses—their data.

You emphasize that cybersecurity isn’t just an IT issue, it’s a business resiliency issue with legal implications. Is this message resonating with most companies, or is there still much work to be done to generate more awareness?

There is still a lot of work to be done. I’ve found that business owners often associate their business with the products or services that they offer. However, they miss the very important fact that data powers the tools that they use to run their businesses, to capture ideas, to develop plans and products and communicate with customers. When a company loses access to company data, they can no longer function. That’s why in order to have a resilient business you need to have policies, programs and technologies in place to protect your data and to have the ability to recover quickly if you’re compromised.

In the southeast, some business became acquainted with business continuity planning in the context of natural disasters. However, many companies have not yet made the connection that the same level of resilience planning needs to take place to protect and prepare for unnatural disasters as well, like a data breach for example. Unfortunately, most owners become proactive cybersecurity true believers only after experiencing the debilitating impacts of suffering data loss due to a ransomware attack, a devastating financial loss, or both.

Can you share a particular case in the area of technology litigation that you found particularly impactful?

There is not one case in particular—however, as cyber insurers incur more losses I feel that cyber subrogation claims will become more prevalent because many of the incidents that compromise business emails—and the losses associated with them, could have been prevented if a client or vendor simply had basic financial transaction verification processes in place.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) recently adopted a new rule impacting publicly traded companies regarding cybersecurity, risk management and incident disclosure. Do you think this rule may indirectly impact privately held companies? If so, how?

I think it has the potential to impact private companies by introducing new security standards to businesses that may currently be unregulated by a federal or state entity. The goals of the SEC rules are increased transparency and accountability. It’s possible that the framework used by the SEC ends up being infused into the business contracts for privately held companies and forming unofficial standards because they make good business sense.

In addition to your law practice, you’re a Senior Lecturing Fellow at Regent University School of Law, and you maintain an active volunteer schedule. How do you sustain a healthy work-life balance and what strategies do you use to stay energized?

I draw my inspiration from my love of people. As an attorney, my job is to serve my clients. In the volunteer and community space, my service is to the larger society. At home, my family are the first group people to whom I attend. Service takes energy, but it returns so much more that motivates me to continue to serve. I am called to love others with the same love that I would want in return. That perspective allows me to also regulate how much I give at any given time in order to maintain the appropriate balance.

Please share an example of a challenge you faced along your professional journey and what you learned from that experience?

One of my biggest challenges was transitioning from an academic setting back into the full-time practice of law. I spent nine years as a law school administrator. I transitioned back into legal practice with rusty skills and no client base. My partner, Jim Chapman encouraged me to research, plan and be very intentional regarding my career. Research and planning made a big difference when it came to how I used my time and applied myself. It also provided a certain level of focus that kept me on track during periods of doubt or when outsiders questioned why I was doing what I was doing. There’s less peer pressure when you have a plan.

What is the most unusual or unexpected item on your home or office desk, and is there a story behind it?

In my office there’s a statue of a man with the world on his shoulders. My mother began a phase of giving us Christmas gifts with meaning. So she gave me that statute because she said in that particular season she felt I was carrying and balancing a lot of home, work and civic responsibility.

In my home office, I have a bag of DJ equipment in the corner. A few years ago a friend of mine encouraged me to help him out at a function and after that I picked up DJing again in a super part-time capacity.

If your law practice had a theme song, what would it be, and how does it capture the essence of your firm?

I like the chorus of “Stronger” by Kanye West. Crenshaw, Ware, & Martin, PLC is over 100 years old. That’s a long time, but I feel that every year we get stronger as we build on the foundation created by the many attorneys that have gone on before us. We’re more diverse, and the diversity of people and ideas allows us to serve our clients better and serve communities and organizations that we may not have served in the past. We are stronger.

If you could invite any three people, living or dead, to a dinner party with you, your family and your team, who would you choose and why?

George Washington. I think his perspective on our current political landscape would be enlightening as his perspective is that of a British citizen and soldier born in a British colony that took a huge risk to revolt against Great Britain for political and financial reasons, chose democracy over a monarchy when presented the opportunity to lead, and witnessed the ideological debates and that formed our government.

Martin Luther King, Jr. I think his perspective regarding global social justice would be fascinating from a political and theological perspective.

Sinbad. I appreciate how true comedic genius can tackle complex life topics and use analogy and humor to simplify and poke fun at our common experiences. I love to laugh.

What is your favorite digital or analog productivity tool?

Digital: Cell phone. A version of your life, business, memories, communications are all on my phone. Sometimes I don’t even take notes for things that I can just capture with a picture.

Analog: Clam clips. I hate traditional paper clips. They always catch adjacent documents. Clam clips clip on and don’t get tangled.

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