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The advertising and marketing space continues to embrace the digital era with digital advertising, targeted marketing campaigns, personalized adverts and the use of social media influencers becoming increasingly prominent. The growing international scope of marketing campaigns through the impact of social media has brought an increased focus on the regulatory issues surrounding these global initiatives, which has allowed firms with global footprints to excel in the space; this is particularly true in light of the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which became enforceable in May 2018.

On the contentious side, the number of consumer class actions surged, displacing the former prominence of Lanham Act litigation and challenges before the NAD. The pharmaceuticals and food and drink sectors remain key drivers of disputes, with litigation relating to claims of ‘natural ingredients’ and product origin bringing in substantial work for firms.

With respect to cyber law, with ransomware attacks and data breaches making headlines at an ever-increasing rate, many firms have dramatically increased their focus on providing clients with cradle-to-grave advice on cybersecurity preparedness and breach response. The other main branch of work for firms has been advising clients on compliance with the EU’s GDPR, which influences the way companies transfer personal data and notify regulators of breaches.

Compliance issues have also become prominent in the healthcare and technology sectors, with many firms handling Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act issues and Telephone Consumer Protection Act work. However, there has been reduced involvement at the federal level with cyber regulation, allowing for state laws to manipulate the current landscape.

The increased monetization of data and the impact of the technology sector has also influenced the kinds of innovative problems arising in the field, with artificial intelligence, blockchain technology, autonomous vehicles and biometric data creating new issues surrounding data collection and data transfer.

The media and entertainment market was rocked in 2017 by the multitude of sexual assault allegations brought against several high-profile individuals within the industry. This has led to an increase in litigation brought against the individuals and the companies they worked for, along with attempts by studios, associations and companies to ensure this behavior is no longer tolerated in the industry through new internal policies and campaigns.

In the wider market, the digital era continues to bring an increased focus on virtual reality, gaming and online streaming services for firms, although traditional elements such as film, television and music are still the linchpins of most media and entertainment practices.

Foreign investment also remains key with China and the Middle East providing funds to American studios; First Amendment litigation and copyright disputes are also prominent along with mergers, joint ventures and music rate-setting proceedings. Talent work primarily falls in the music and film sectors, and is primarily led by West Coast firms.

In March 2018, in a major development in the law firm market, a high-profile team from Loeb & Loeb LLP - including Stephen Saltzman, Susan Zuckerman Williams, Craig Emanuel, Mickey Mayerson and Erik Hyman - joined the new Century City office of Paul Hastings LLP, thereby establishing the firm as a genuine prospect in the media and entertainment space.

There are fewer mega-deals in the outsourcing market but external legal counsel is as much in demand as ever, given the growing complexity of multi-sourced outsourcing arrangements and advances in technology that have seen cloud computing and robotic process automation become more prevalent. As companies outsource more critical core functions and engage in transformational IT and business process outsourcing agreements, they increase their need for legal specialists, who also play a major role in helping to manage the complexity of multiple, business-critical outsourcing deals, particularly in heavily regulated industries such as financial services and life sciences. Some leading corporate law firms have dedicated outsourcing teams, though there are also many specialists in smaller firms that have a focus on a broad range of technology and IP matters. Leading firms in the market are also able to bring in experts in data privacy and cybersecurity to negotiate the increasingly complex international regulation governing data security and to protect their clients’ key digital assets.

The technology transactions space is booming. With nearly every industry affected by digital and mobile technologies, buyers from all sectors are now actively targeting hi-tech assets. Private equity players were especially active; during the third quarter of 2017, over 465 technology deals were announced for a disclosed deal value that totaled $61.4bn. The software deal sector was particularly robust in volume terms; other areas showing high levels of activity included hardware, internet, IT services, fintech, data and cloud, as well as emerging areas such as cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles, virtual reality, and artificial intelligence.

Notable legal market news included Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP opening a Santa Monica office in 2017, following demand from California-headquartered technology companies and start-ups for advice on significant M&A deals; the firm also hired co-head of the global technology transactions practice Glynna Christian, who splits her time between New York and Silicon Valley, from Kaye Scholer LLP, while Peter Fusco, who leads the firm’s New York technology companies practice, joined from Lowenstein Sandler LLP.

Other significant moves included Ropes & Gray LLP’s global M&A head Paul Scrivano joining from O'Melveny & Myers LLP; and Hogan Lovells US LLP hiring a number of technology transaction experts from Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, including Silicon Valley-based Richard Climan, Keith Flaum, Jane Ross and Christopher Moore, as well as John Brockland in San Francisco.

The telecoms and broadcast sector has been impacted by the Trump administration’s emphasis on deregulation, with the FCC’s recent repeal of the net neutrality ruling making headlines worldwide. ‘Net neutrality’ is a principle that forbids internet service providers (ISPs) from controlling connection speed and blocking certain websites or applications, and the repeal has generated enormous criticism from tech giants such as Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix as well as online activists. The charge is that the repeal will give ISPs too much control over what websites people visit and which applications they choose to engage with online. Firms such as Latham & Watkins LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP and Jenner & Block LLP have been advising ISPs on the implications behind the ruling.

Another key development has been the preparations for 5G, which will give users even greater speed and capacity than its predecessor 4G and further enhances the availability of IoT and AI-related technology. This transition will require even more spectrum, infrastructure and backhaul in order to be rolled out. In the broadcasting arena, over-the-top services providers such as Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and HBO Now are gaining momentum, with Hulu launching a landmark live steaming service of television channels in 2017.

On the transactional side, consolidation has been the prevailing theme with many big players choosing to join forces, with ensuing antitrust and political ramifications. The best example was the recent $85.4bn merger between AT&T and Time Warner, which was challenged by the Justice Department due to the enormous foothold in the industry it would give the combined entity. Telecoms heavyweights Sprint and T-Mobile were also in discussions over a potential merger but this plan was abandoned due to the parties being unable to agree on terms. Other notable deals included Discovery Communications’ purchase of Scripps Networks for approximately $12bn and the Sinclair Broadcast Group’s proposed acquisition of Tribune Media. Transactional heavyweights in this space include Latham & Watkins LLP, Hogan Lovells US LLP and Debevoise & Plimpton LLP.

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