With the rapidly evolving technological landscape, it's becoming increasingly important for professionals in all industries to integrate digital tools into their daily lives. The legal profession is no exception. With the rise of e-discovery, contract management software, online research, and remote work, lawyers are expected to be proficient in technology in order to effectively deliver services to their clients.
While there’s no official legal requirement for lawyers to be tech-savvy, it is certainly an expectation of today's legal market. As clients are expecting increasing efficiency of legal services, lawyers who are not familiar with basic technology tools such as word processing, email, and online research will find themselves at a disadvantage. This has become evident as courts and regulatory agencies are increasingly relying on electronic filing and other technology-based systems, which means that lawyers who do not keep up, may struggle to navigate these processes. As ignorance of the law is no excuse, in the same vein, it is now becoming clear that unfamiliarity with technology can no longer be a defense for lawyers who wish to maintain a successful and competitive law practice in the modern era.
In fact, many states in the U.S. have now incorporated technology competence into their ethical rules for lawyers. For example, in 2012, the American Bar Association amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to include a comment on technology competence. The comment 8 to Rule 1.1. states that "a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology." The comment goes on to explain that technology competence involves "an understanding of the risks and benefits associated with the use of technology, including its impact on confidentiality, security, and the potential for unauthorized access to client information." This means that lawyers must not only be proficient in using technology but shall also be aware of the potential risks and take appropriate measures to protect client data.
In addition to ethical considerations, there are practical reasons why lawyers should be tech-savvy. For instance, contract drafting and management represent essential components of legal practice that necessitate meticulous attention to detail and comprehensive understanding of contractual language and legal frameworks. In the era of customized contract resources available online, lawyers who lack the expertise to effectively leverage these tools may have difficulty drafting and negotiating contracts that accurately convey the parties' intentions or managing contractual relationships efficiently. Finally, being tech-savvy can help legal professionals be more efficient and effective in their work. Technology tools such as practice management software, document automation, and online collaboration platforms can assist lawyers with streamlining their workflows and improving communication with clients and colleagues.
Therefore, to thrive as a legal professional in today's world, there is an inherent obligation to stay informed and abreast of the latest technological advancements. This entails investing time in familiarizing ourselves with tools such as practice management software, document automation, and online collaboration platforms. However, the responsibility of adapting to the ever-changing technological landscape should not fall solely on the shoulders of lawyers. It is incumbent upon educational institutions and state authorities to be proactive in facilitating the integration of technology in the legal sector. The state of Florida, for instance, has mandated that lawyers complete 33 hours of technology training, while Suffolk University Law School has instituted a Legal Innovation and Technology Certificate program that incorporates online courses on technology. These initiatives serve as prime examples of how legal practitioners can be incentivized to enhance their productivity through a comprehensive understanding of technology.
To learn more about developing the right skills for launching a successful legal career, sign up for our upcoming legal talk, taking place on March 7, 10:00 AM PST.