Texas is the most recent state to adopt a rule proclaiming that it is a lawyer’s ethical duty to achieve and maintain technological competence. The Supreme Court of Texas amended Paragraph 8 of Rule 1.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct to read:
8. Because of the vital role of lawyers in the legal process, each lawyer should strive to become and remain proficient and competent in the practice of law,including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology. To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill of a competent practitioner, a lawyer should engage in continuing study and education. If a system of peer review has been established, the lawyer should consider making use of it in appropriate circumstances. Isolated instances of faulty conduct or decision should be identified for purposes of additional study or instruction.
Note this language: “…including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.”
As of this writing, 36 states have adopted the American Bar Association’s Model Rule change making it clear that lawyers have a duty to be tech competent.
And yet, how many of the lawyers reading this article can claim tech prowess?
What percentage of the people in your firm could claim tech prowess? I’m guess that if any of us polled the firms where we work, we’d come up with a demoralizing percentage of attorneys who lack even some of the most basic technological skills.
Here are some of the excuses I’ve heard from attorneys who aren’t staying on top of tech advancements:
“I don’t have time.”
“My assistant can do it for me.”
“My clients aren’t paying me to go back to school.”
“I’ve provided great service for decades doing it my way. I don’t need to change.”
Let me take each one of those excuses apart:
“I don’t have time.” In just 15 minutes a day, 3 to 5 days a week, you can learn new skills that will enable you to work more efficiently, secure your clients’ important data, and communicate more effectively with everyone involved with a case.
“My assistant can do it for me.” Okay, aside from sounding like you’re “too good to learn,” this statement lacks an awareness of how the legal industry is changing. Technology isn’t just impacting how quickly documents are typed up (your assistant’s job?), but also how attorneys communicate with courts, clients and opposing counsel, not to mention all the security protocols that your firm has likely enacted. If you’re using old tech, you’re likely opening up everyone to security threats and slowing down everyone’s productivity.
“My clients aren’t paying me to go back to school.” No… but they are paying you in good faith that they are getting the most bang for their buck. If you’re a slow-poke due to low-tech inefficiencies, then you aren’t providing top-notch legal service. Also, they absolutely expect that you are keeping their sensitive data secure. Are you?
“I’ve provided great service for decades doing it my way. I don’t need to change.” Yeah, sure. And neither does your doctor. You’re a professional! And you’re operating in a profession that is in huge flux due to technology! (Just like the medical profession.) You should always seek to advance your skills and knowledge.
But how do you actually become “Proficient and Competent” in technology?
I can imagine that Texas attorneys and law firms might read this new requirement and struggle to identify the best courses to take. “What will make me technologically competent?” “Where are my skills lacking?”
To answer these questions, I direct you to the Legal Technology Assessment. This easy-to-administer test analyzes how well timekeepers and staff use basic law practice technologies, such as word processing and spreadsheets, to complete common legal tasks. Then, it provides learning paths to achieve competency.
LTA: How Does it Work?
The beauty of LTA is that it makes assessment easy and defines clear, easy-to-follow learning goals for firms based on their results. The company has a fantastic (and entertaining) video to explain the process, but in a nutshell, a firm:
Launches the assessment for participation of all intended timekeeping employees and staff
Analyzes results across several predetermined subject areas
Using the results, creates individualized learning paths to improve skills
Conveniently, Savvy Training & Consulting is an official LTA partner! Are you interested in learning more about LTA? Contact me today for a free demo and a discussion of how you can bring your firm up to the ABA Model Rules.