The change is a’coming! And the South is a’leading the way!
As you no doubt know, I’m a big believer in the idea that today’s lawyers need to be proficient users of technology. Simply put: It is not only inefficient for attorneys to stick to the “old ways” of doing business, but it is unethical. And while you may think it’s ok to be inefficient (though I hope not), I doubt you would argue that it’s ok to be unethical.
(And actually, I think being inefficient is as unethical as lying about your hours to a client just to make more money. If you don’t use a client’s time efficiently, you are unethically billing them. But I digress.)
The North Carolina Bar Association is now poised to join Florida as the second state in the country to require CLE credits for technology training. Florida passed its law in 2016 and it requires that lawyers achieve three hours of tech credits every three years, out of 33 hours required in total. (I personally believe that is not even close to enough, given the risks posed by tech incompetency, but I’ll cover that in a bit.)
More states are discussing doing the same as Florida and it appears that North Carolina will be next out of the chute.
According to Big Law Business: “The North Carolina State Bar later this year will ask the state’s high court to approve an amendment that would require attorneys to complete a one-hour class devoted to technology training, as part of their 12-hour annual CLE requirements.”
In its description of why attorneys need technology training on a regular basis, the article continues:
Some attorneys have landed in hot water for their use of social media, mistakes in preserving and producing electronically stored information, and failure to keep confidential information secret while using mobile devices and cloud-based software.
“From the ethical perspective, my sense is that many attorneys have not thought through all the implications of the use of technology in law practice,” Catherine J. Lanctot, a professor at Villanova University Law School, told Bloomberg Law in an email. Lanctot’s primary area of scholarly interest is the intersection of legal ethics and technology.
“Issues like using third-party vendors to store client information in the cloud, using unsecure WiFi networks while doing client work off-site, advising clients about how to handle problematic materials on social media, for example, can create unforeseen questions about confidentiality and competence,” she said.
Now, let me repeat some of the specific areas of risk that the Big Law Business stresses in its article, most of which have to do with client security concerns:
I’ll add a few of my own, some involving security and some involving inefficiencies that lead to unethical representation:
Email phishing breaches
Document Management System misuse
Word processing ineffectiveness (and all the other document production platforms that lawyers use, such as Excel, PowerPoint and others)
In reviewing that list, it becomes clear to me that one hour of technology training per year will be inadequate to help a law firm achieve technological competency. Email phishing breaches alone require ongoing vigilance and awareness. But, one hour per year, as required by Florida and probably North Carolina, is a good place to start. (Shrewd firms will be delivering way more than that, though.)
Finally, there’s one area of tech incompetency that doesn’t fit easily into a list. Namely, I’ve noticed that some attorneys not only lack tech skills, but – worse – they completely lack interestin learning new technologies. In my opinion, this represents the greatest unethical treatment of clients because these attorneys not only don’t know how to use the technologies that will help produce their clients’ matters efficiently and also keep them secure, but they aren’t even interested in learning it. In my experience, these attorneys (generally more “seasoned” in the firm) expect others to do this production work for them (ie “Susan, put a table of contents on this brief for me.”) and have no idea how much their inefficiencies are costing the firm and their clients.
Tech Training CLE: Coming to a State Bar Near You
So, with Florida and (likely) North Carolina leading the way, can your state bar association be far behind? And, seriously, why wait for a bar to tell you that your firm’s attorneys need tech training? Don’t you want your firm to run efficiently and securely? (Ultimately, this means a boost in your bottom line, so if for no other reason, do it for that!)
Here are a few ways that you can bring the benefits of tech competency to your firm:
And, just to get right to the point: I believe that you can deliver this training for much less than you might imagine.
If you are interested in learning more about the many ways that you might bring technology competency to your law firm, contact me today. I am passionate about helping the legal industry deliver the highest-quality work to its customers by leveraging technology to its maximum potential.