How Law Office Technology May Help Lawyers Avoid an Ethics Complaint

Feb 19, 2019 | Blog

Case management systems, practice management apps, cloud storage, and automation practices are examples of commonly used law office technology. When properly used, law office technology can do more than help improve the efficiency of your practice. It may also help you avoid an ethics complaint. In this post, you’ll learn about four ways the right law office technology can protect your practice.


Law Office Technology May Help with Diligence & Competence

The most common ethics complaints filed against lawyers involve a lack of diligence and incompetence. When you choose law office technology, do so with your jurisdictional rules in mind. Many jurisdictions use the ABA Model Rules.

Competency is covered in ABA Model Rule 1.1. Competence is defined as representation involving the proper amount of legal knowledge, skill, thoroughness, and preparation that is reasonable for the matter. As a side note, the ABA provides clarity on a lawyer’s requirement of technological competence. They state that “a competent lawyer’s skill set needs to evolve along with technology.” Diligence is found in ABA Model Rule 1.3. Lawyers must act with “reasonable diligence and promptness.”

Related: Ethics for Lawyers Report: Common Ethical Violations

The right law office technology solutions can help you stay on course to meet all of your deadlines as well as track all of your appointments, consultations, and meetings. Depending on the program you choose, items placed onto the calendar may sync with the calendar on your phone. This is very helpful as it provides you with reminders. If you’re using practice management software or docketing software, make sure that you take full advantage of its capabilities so that you’re better prepared to serve your clients.

Better Data Security for Sensitive Information

Law office technology does more than help your practice become paperless or paper lite. It can also help protect sensitive data including work product, evidence, banking information, and client information. If you’re looking at a cloud storage provider, a private cloud from which to host all of your programs and data, or a cloud-based program to help with any aspect of running your firm, do your research regarding data security. Does the provider you’re interested in meet the data security requirements set by your jurisdiction or meet the recommendations of the ABA.

Also, think long and hard about creating and enforcing security standards within the firm. This could include the use of a VPN and not allowing employees to “BYOD” (bring your own device) to access client data or work product.

Law Office Technology Helps Prevent Billing “Surprises”

Clients do not enjoy receiving a billing “surprise” when they get their invoice. There are several reasons why this sort of issue may occur. However, the most common reason is because lawyers just don’t create, review, and send out invoices on a regular and predictable basis. We recognize that one of the reasons this happens is because the process of creating an invoice can take time. Time that you may feel is better spent on substantive work. If you’re a solo lawyer, you may not have anyone to help with billing.

Most practice management options provide the ability to track time and create invoices. No more writing it down. No more hoping you remember. You track your time to the proper matter and include an appropriate description. Then at the interval of your choice (such as monthly), you generate the invoices and review them before you send them out. Creating and sending out timely invoices also helps you satisfy the ethical requirement of providing updates on client matters.

Related: Essential Law Firm Billing Best Practices (Regardless of Firm Size)

Law Office Technology Can Help You Communicate Better with Clients

Ethics complaints are also filed because of poor communication. We know that for many lawyers it, again, comes down to the amount of time it takes. Maybe you don’t think you have the time to call clients with updates. Maybe you’re still waiting to hear back from opposing counsel or a third party. Regardless of why you’re not providing the updates, radio silence is scary for clients.

Law office technology can help you quickly and easily provide updates to clients. Clients retrieve updates (or messages from you) by logging into their client portal. Client portals provide a secure digital environment that you can use not just for providing updates, but also for sharing files.

Learn More about Law Office Technology & How It Can Help

If you’re interested in learning more about how law office technology could help you, register for Tennessee Lawyers’ Association for Women Annual Empowerment Conference (March 28 and 29, 2019). Megan and Erin Gerstenzang are scheduled to speak on March 29. They will discuss technology and ethics. They’ll also host an interactive mentoring workshop.