Women of Legal Tech: Cindy Cohn

The Legal Technology Resource Center’s Women of Legal Tech initiative is intended to encourage diversity and celebrate women in legal technology. This initiative launched in 2015 with a list of innovators and leaders in legal technology and with this year’s additions, that list now includes 141 talented and influential women leaders.

Cindy Cohn is the Executive Director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. From 2000-2015 she served as EFF’s Legal Director as well as its General Counsel. In 1993, EFF she served lead attorney in Bernstein v. Dept. of Justice, the successful First Amendment challenge to the U.S. export restrictions on cryptography. Among other honors, Ms. Cohn was named to TheNonProfitTimes 2020 Power & Influence TOP 50 list, and in 2018, Forbes included Ms. Cohn as one of America’s Top 50 Women in Tech. In 2013, The National Law Journal named Ms. Cohn one of 100 most influential lawyers in America, noting: “If Big Brother is watching, he better look out for Cindy Cohn.”

Please give us three points to summarize you and your work in legal technology.

  1. I am the Executive Director of EFF, the oldest and largest digital civil liberties organization in the world.
  2. I led Bernstein v. DOJ, the case that helped free encryption technologies from restrictive governmental licensing and allowed users to engage private conversations, have better security and do commercial transactions online.
  3. I helped EFF challenge and scale back both NSA and FBI surveillance.

How did you become involved in legal tech?

As a young lawyer, I volunteered with EFF to work pro bono on one of the early Internet cases (Bernstein v. DOJ). From there I joined EFF formally in 2000 as its Legal Director and became Executive Director in 2015.

What projects have you been focused on recently?

My focus recently has been on leading a now-100 person digital civil liberties organization. On the program side I continue to work on cases ensuring that the First and Fourth Amendments are applied to the digital world in ways that protect all of us.

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