In 2012, the ABA Commission on Ethics 20/20 stated:
“Technology has irrevocably changed and continues to alter the practice of law in fundamental ways. Legal work can be, and is, more easily disaggregated; business development can be done with new tools; and new processes facilitate legal work and communication with clients. Lawyers must understand technology in order to provide clients with the competent and cost-effective services that they expect and deserve.”
That first sentence bears repeating: “Technology has irrevocably changed and continues to alter the practice of law in fundamental ways.”
And yet, how many of the lawyers reading this article can claim tech prowess? Ok, maybe YOU can, but 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(ed), 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. Good going.
- “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. Get on board or get out of the way.
I recently read an article in AboveTheLaw.com by Robert Ambrogi and he stated:
“A majority of states now explicitly mandate technology competence in their rules of professional conduct. Even among states that have yet to mandate tech competence by rule, several have recognized through court or ethics opinions that lawyers have a duty to understand technology.
Florida is the only state to have gone even farther and mandated technology CLE. Last year, in an order that also adopted the duty of technology competence, the Supreme Court of Florida revised its minimum CLE requirements to add three hours every three years in approved technology programs. The revision came at the urging of The Florida Bar. While the Supreme Court did not explain its reasoning for adopting the tech CLE requirement, it described the bar’s proposal as “straightforward.”
“Straightforward” might be a judicious way of saying “no brainer.” Technology is as essential to law practice as are case law and legal briefs. A lawyer cannot competently perform legal work or represent clients without at least a basic understanding of common technologies. If lawyers are to receive ongoing training in minimum standards of practice, then it is a no brainer that such training must include technology.”
And, again, something above bears repeating: “Technology is as essential to law practice as are case law and legal briefs. A lawyer cannot competently perform legal work or represent clients without at least a basic understanding of common technologies.”
If you’re not going to advance your technological abilities, just call yourself what you are: “A Luddite,” which Merriam-Webster defines as “someone opposed to technological change.” The legal profession – and the clients who trust us – deserve better than Luddites.