Technological competency for lawyers came under the microscope during the pandemic. During that time, many attorneys were forced to deal with more technology than they were used to using or wanted to use. With the speed that technology evolves, it’s no wonder that most industries can’t keep up. The legal industry certainly isn’t known for its quick adoption of anything. Although COVID-19 forced the courts and many lawyers to quickly embrace technological solutions to continue operating to serve clients and the public at large, technological competency for lawyers has always been a requirement.
What does technological competency for lawyers mean? Does it mean that a lawyer must be an expert in all things computer-based to stay in business?
The Ethical Duty of Technology Competence for Attorneys
Every jurisdiction within the United States has its own rule or guidance regarding the ethical duty of technology competence as it relates to the law office. It is important that you first read the ethical rules or guidelines in your jurisdiction. Additionally, the ABA amended Comment 8 of Model Rule 1.1 to require lawyers to stay somewhat informed of technology because of how it impacts their practice.
As an attorney, you have the ethical duty of technological competence. You should understand the basics of how the legal technology and software choices you use for your practice operate. You should understand the ethical rules and guidelines in your jurisdiction. You should also take continuing legal education when appropriate to understand the changes to this particular requirement.
Related: The Duty of Tech Competence in the Age of COVID-19
Do You Need to Be a “Tech Expert” to Keep Practicing Law?
As Megan stated in her new book, The Modern Lawyer: Ethics and Technology in an Evolving World, there’s a lot of fear among lawyers when it comes to the adoption and use of technology. While there is an ethical duty of technological competency exists, there’s no need to be a tech expert.
You can make the process of adopting and using technology easier in a couple of ways. You could hire someone to help you. Although you are still required to have some understanding of the technology used, hiring (and properly supervising) an assistant can make learning the software and using the software easier. If you already have an assistant and you’re currently looking for the right legal technology for your legal practice, ask your assistant for their input. This is especially important if they will be the primary person using the software. Knowing the features that they need can make the selection process easier. Second, your assistant may be able to help you better understand how the technology works (even if you aren’t the person who will use it regularly).
Related: Essential Law Firm Billing Best Practices (Regardless of Firm Size)
Start Small with Tech Changes
If you’re new to tech, you can start small. While it is your ethical obligation to be technologically competent, you do not have to introduce major technology changes to your practice overnight. You can start small. Ask your colleagues about which CMS (case management software) they like and why. Go to the website of each and look at the features. Consider which billing provider may truly meet your needs. Talk to them to determine if they can help you make the switch or if they’ll just leave you on your own. It’s important to know if you’ll have support. Ultimately, your law firm is your responsibility. It’s important to ask questions and get answers before you make decisions.
Learn More about Technological Competence for Lawyers
If you’re ready to learn more about technological competence for lawyers, The Modern Lawyer: Ethics and Technology in an Evolving World is now available for purchase. You’ll learn more about how ethics and technology intersect, how ethics impact your officing options, what you need to know about outsourcing, and more. You can purchase your physical or digital copy from the ABA now!