When Centennial Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph was sentenced to prison in 2005, Assistant U.S. Attorney Phyllis Sumner, who was prosecuting the case, made sure her elementary-age daughter was at the hearing. “I wanted her to be aware of what some people are capable of doing, to understand the impact it had on people’s lives,” she says.
For Sumner, fifty-three, the case struck very close to home. In 1980, she herself had a chance at the Olympics, competing in the equestrian trials. During the bombing investigation, she was particularly touched by the story of one of the victims who, like her, had a young daughter. “I was very passionate; you can’t work on a case like that without having feelings run very deep,” says Sumner, who served as a federal prosecutor for eight years.
But that was only part of her career. After returning to private practice, she focused on cyber-security law and is now a nationally recognized authority on the subject. As a partner in King & Spalding’s Business Litigation Practice Group, she leads the firm’s Data, Privacy & Security practice, working with companies such as Home Depot, Equifax, and Kmart.
“I’m essentially a crisis manager,” she says. “It’s very, very difficult for companies to stay ahead of the criminal actors in this space.” The job often takes her to murky corners of the Internet, where hackers sell stolen information.
Although the work is intense, Sumner has found she can escape office pressures by returning to her childhood passion: horses. “I started riding again, and before I knew it, I was competing again,” she says. She recently won a gold medal from the U.S. Equestrian Federation. The honors are nice, but that’s not her primary motivation for getting back in the saddle. “It’s my therapy,” she smiles.