We recently caught up with emeriti faculty members Roy Sobelson and Mark Budnitz. Both professors are still actively involved in Atlanta’s legal community and occasionally teach in the College of Law. Below, they reflect on the ways the legal field has been impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as challenges they see on the horizon.
Roy M. Sobelson
Sobelson’s specializations included civil trial and procedure, evidence law, lawyer discipline, legal ethics and trial practice during his time as a professor and associate dean at Georgia State from 1985 to 2018.
Those fields have each evolved recently, as proceedings have moved online and presented attorneys with new challenges and procedures.
“I feel like I’m fairly technologically savvy for a 70-year-old guy, but people find ingenious and sometimes nefarious ways of listening in on conversations or accessing documents,” Sobelson said. “The whole concept of confidentiality has to be way more difficult than ever. Everything is changing, and people have to find a way to adapt.”
Personally, Sobelson said the awkward and artificial nature of remote work have led him to withdraw from appearing as a mediator or expert witness.
Instead, he has been enjoying visiting national and state parks with his wife and socially distanced time with family while he waits for the pandemic to come to an end.
“For me, it has always been about the connections with people,” Sobelson said. “There is nothing quite like being able to sit across from someone and work things out.”
Mark E. Budnitz
Budnitz has also seen his areas of expertise rise to the forefront of issues during the pandemic.
He began teaching at Georgia State in 1988 and continues to advise students on writing for the Law Review. He specializes in consumer protection, electronic payment systems and commercial transactions.
This fall, Budnitz is focusing on the shift to remote shopping and delivery by writing law review articles, submitting statements to regulators and training lawyers about these subjects. Through his focus on consumer protection, he has identified two major problems with the shift– security and privacy concerns arising from digital spending and equal access to the tools that allow online transactions.
“Because of the pandemic, people want to avoid having direct contact with people,” Budnitz said. “The remote access is perfect, but that doesn’t do much good if you can’t afford a computer or reliable internet. It can be devastating in terms of its impact.”
While the pandemic has highlighted many issues in cybersecurity and digital access, Budnitz said he is hopeful the situation can lead to changes that may put the United States’ legislation on the same level as many other countries.
“I have been working in this area for 50 years, and the one thing that has motivated Congress to act has been a terrible situation,” he said. “If you have a huge problem and constituents are complaining to people in Congress, that gets them to act.”