High tech: Attorney specializes in emerging technology law

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Susan Benington recently joined Varnum’s corporate team in Detroit, reconnecting in the firm’s Data Privacy and Cybersecurity practice with her friend and former colleague Jeff Stefan, a leader in autonomous vehicle and emerging technology law.

“We make a great team and I’m thrilled to help clients with our combined unique skills and expertise.” she says. “Autonomous technology is going to be a reality in transportation in our lifetimes—the passion and ingenuity of autonomous vehicle and connected device technology companies is unmatched. I love how the law is emerging before our eyes—the issues are always new and challenging. There is never a dull moment.”

Always passionate about technology, Benington earned her undergraduate degree in organizational studies with a focus on information systems from the University of Michigan, then worked for several years in Washington, D.C. as a technology consultant, managing teams responsible for deploying software solutions for federal government clients.

She also worked for an agency providing consulting services to the FBI, counseling clients and implementing technology to improve business operations. She supported the Director’s Office in developing a system whereby the FBI Director could gain a centralized view of how FBI field offices were performing.

While working in the nation’s capital, she saw the broad impact she could make as a lawyer—and her next career step was Michigan State University College of Law, inspired to attend where her grandmother earned her Master's Degree in Education, earning her J.D. magna cum laude.

“The people I met there are life-long friends,” she says. “It was a tight knit group really focused on becoming great lawyers.”

In law school, Benington served as a Managing Editor of the Law Review. “I enjoyed working with a really smart and dedicated team to produce a high-quality journal,” she says.

She interned in the summer of 2008 at the U.S. Attorneys Office in the Eastern District of Michigan in Detroit; and the following summer interned with The Honorable Avern Cohn in the Eastern District of Michigan.
She returned to the federal district court after her 2010 graduation for a clerkship with the Judge, an experience she terms a highlight of her legal career.

“Judge Cohn is a great judge, mentor, and man,” she says. “I learned so much during my time with him—most importantly to always be over-prepared and to never stop learning.”

After several years in private practice, Benington became Global Data Privacy Counsel for General Motors in Detroit., supporting clients in launching connected vehicle data products and services and complying with emerging privacy laws, such as GDPR and CCPA.

Benington added to her credentials by earning a Master of Laws degree from Georgetown University in the area of national security law, which focused on emerging legal obligations in the areas of data privacy and cybersecurity, and she also is credentialed as an IAPP certified information privacy professional.

“I have a strong interest in data management from my pre-lawyer days as a manager at Accenture,” she explains.

“Judge Cohn and I shared a common interest in the evolving area of national security law and I had a hunch that data privacy and cyber security law would be an up-and-coming field of practice for commercial attorneys—allowing me to use both my prior technology experience and my legal experience to develop a niche practice.”

“This combined experience has helped me in-house and now in private practice, because it allows me to quickly extract pertinent information to address risk and provide solution-oriented, practical guidance,” she said.

The Michigan native currently makes her home in Plymouth, with her husband, young son, and two Labradors.

“We love being outside as much as we can and cooking at home. We really enjoy spending time with friends and family in any way we can, which is currently mainly on Zoom,” she says.



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