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Former United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Chief Privacy Officer Mary Ellen Callahan has joined Jenner & Block as a partner in the Firm’s Washington, DC office. Ms. Callahan is a nationally recognized privacy attorney, who has a strong background in consumer protection law. She will lead the Firm’s newly formed Privacy and Information Governance Practice.
Ms. Callahan joined the DHS in March 2009, as head of its Privacy Office, the first statutorily required privacy office in any federal agency. She oversaw an office of 45 federal employees and had indirect oversight of approximately 100 privacy employees and 400 FOIA/transparency employees. She also served as Chief Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Officer. In that dual capacity, she reported directly to the Secretary of Homeland Security and was responsible for carrying out the Privacy Office’s mission to protect all individuals by embedding and enforcing privacy protections and transparency in all DHS activities. The Privacy Office works with every DHS component and program to ensure that privacy considerations are addressed when planning or updating any program, system or initiative and to ensure that technologies used at the DHS sustain, and do not erode, privacy protections.
“We are thrilled to have Mary Ellen join us,” said Susan C. Levy, the Firm’s Managing Partner. “She is the ideal person to lead this new and fast-growing area of practice.”
David W. DeBruin, Managing Partner of Jenner & Block’s Washington, DC office, stated, “We are immensely pleased to welcome Mary Ellen to the firm and to the DC office. As with many of the lawyers here, her combination of public and private sector experience in her area of law will be a tremendous asset to our clients. We are also very excited to be the launch site for this new and important practice.”
“In deciding where I wanted to land in private practice, the synergy between Jenner & Block’s offering and my background was obvious. I chose the firm because of its litigation prowess and deep client relationships. Its experience with investigations and enforcement proceedings is also a critical component to this practice. Add to the mix the firm’s representation of household names in such sectors as defense, health care and entertainment, and Jenner & Block offers an ideal platform to address privacy and information governance issues,” said Ms. Callahan.
The new Privacy and Information Governance Practice will nest in the Firm’s best-in-class Litigation Department, which handles high-stakes, complex commercial litigation across the country. Partner Craig C. Martin, Co-Chair of the Litigation Department, said “Big Data and privacy issues are of paramount importance to our clients and Mary Ellen’s addition underscores our commitment to deliver services that are responsive to our clients’ needs.”
In 2011, Ms. Callahan received Federal Computer Week’s important Federal 100 Award, presented to individuals in the federal government IT community who have gone above and beyond their daily responsibilities and made a difference in the way technology has transformed their agency or accelerated their agency's mission. Ms. Callahan’s work on integrating cybersecurity, transparency and privacy at the Department of Homeland Security was cited as the reason for her Federal 100 recognition.
Ms. Callahan has been recognized by Chambers USA, with a “Band One” Nationwide ranking, Chambers’ highest ranking, in Privacy and Data Security law, and by Legal 500 as a “Leading Lawyer” in Technology: Data Protection and Privacy. She is a prolific writer and speaker on privacy issues, including having testified before Congress numerous times in her capacity as DHS Chief Privacy/Chief FOIA Officer. Ms. Callahan has served as Vice-chair of the ABA Privacy and Information Security Committee of the Antitrust Division; Co-chair of the Privacy Committee of the CIO (Chief Information Officers) Council; and Co-chair of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Subcommittee of the Information Sharing and Access Interagency Policy Committee.
Ms. Callahan is a graduate of the University of Chicago Law School. She received a B.Phil. in Political Science and Russian/Eastern European Studies, magna cum laude, from the University of Pittsburgh University Honors College. Prior to joining the DHS, Ms. Callahan was a partner in the Washington, DC office of a major international law firm.