Meet MoFo’s Privacy + Data Security Lawyers: Mercedes Samavi

Mercedes Samavi is an associate in MoFo’s London office. As a member of both the Technology Transactions Group and the Global Privacy Group, she focuses on advising domestic and international clients on matters related to B2B and B2C data protection issues, e-privacy and direct marketing strategies, contract law, intellectual property, outsourcing, and public procurements.

Her clients range from early-stage startups to large multinational corporations, covering a wide assortment of industries. Additionally she’s spent significant time on client secondments, helping businesses with both commercial and privacy matters.

Mercedes is also actively involved with the firm’s pro bono efforts, working with a variety of clients, including UK and international charities, third-sector organizations, and social impact businesses. In 2019 she was awarded the Kathi Pugh Award for her dedication to pro bono service.

What was it that initially drew you to Privacy + Data Security law?

I initially worked solely for MoFo’s Technology Transactions Group. Within a few months, I became aware that I’d have to have at least a basic level of privacy law to be able to fully understand clients’ questions and concerns and give truly helpful advice. In practice, whether you’re dealing with an app, a piece of software, or a new device, clients’ issues don’t always fall neatly into the “privacy” bucket and the “contractual” bucket.  Additionally, learning about privacy law is like pulling a piece of loose yarn on a jumper: the more you pull, the more you realize that there’s still so much you need to know. So I’ve stuck with it ever since! The Privacy + Data Security Group itself contains such a fantastic set of individuals with so much talent and experience, and my dual practice has really benefited over the years from being able to work closely with them on a variety of deals and regulatory matters.

Do you have any advice for the next generation of aspiring diverse lawyers who might be interested in the field?

We need you! Privacy is not an issue that’s going to get “resolved” any time soon, either by this generation or the next generation. If anything, the more we increase our personal and corporate reliance on technology, the more interesting legal and ethical privacy dilemmas we’ll have for lawyers to consider and advise on. To solve these dilemmas, having a diverse set of voices (both by background and by experience) consult on the underlying principles is not just nice to have; it’s a necessity. A fundamental principle of privacy is that personal information should be handled in a fair and justified way; enshrined in this is the requirement to strip out bias and anti-discrimination. Consider the last time you read in the news about an AI algorithm that unlawfully discriminated against a certain gender, race, or sexual orientation. Could this have been avoided if the company’s legal advisers comprised a wider range of individuals who could, from a privacy perspective, spot the red flags in time? For sure, this responsibility should not be placed on the shoulders of lawyers alone, but substantive privacy laws are still being figured out, and we need diverse representation in the room to help companies avoid making the same mistakes.

Can you speak to the importance of mentorship in your career, or perhaps why you are driven to mentor others?

Originally, mentorship represented to me the idea of having one special person that will guide you through your career—much like a guardian angel—from the start until the end. Now, I appreciate that it’s so much more than that and that mentors come in all shapes and sizes. I’ve really valued having a trusted set of people, within law and other professions, who play different roles—a listening ear, a sounding board, or a sponsor—depending on what the situation requires. Having benefited so much from this, I’m keen to provide mentorship to junior associates and trainees, again adjusting my role to what they need. Often, the most helpful thing that I’ve been able to offer to someone is the opportunity to check that what they’re going through is not unheard of or unique to them. I know, firsthand, that it can be a great comfort to know this.

Learn more about MoFo’s commitment to the recruitment, retention, and advancement of diverse and women attorneys here.