Tech Competency Expectations Require Accountability

In 2012, the American Bar Association changed its Model Rules to include technological competency. Basically, the expectation is that, in order for lawyers to provide ethical representation to their clients, they must be technologically competent.

Since the ABA’s change, 33 states have also adopted technological competency into their Model Rules requirements, but only two now actually mandate technology trainingfor their lawyers: Florida and North Carolina. What about the other 31 states (not to mention the 17 that have done nothing)? In my mind, that’s like a parent saying, “I expect you to be home by midnight” but then never checking to see when the kid gets home. Where’s the accountability?

It turns out that many of the states are struggling to define “technological competency.” And some states, such as Vermont, seem to struggle with leveling the playing field with a standard for all attorneys if it might alienate “older” practitioners. However, they’ve been happily surprised with the results.

Ronald Minkoff, a Frankfurt Kurnit Klein & Selz partner and ABA Center for Professional Responsibility policy implementation committee member, said he was one of a very few who had reservations about the requirement.

“I personally had some misgivings about the rule when it was proposed because I thought there would be problems when older lawyers who aren’t as technologically in-depth were being judged by young bar regulators,” Minkoff conceded. “I thought that would present some problems. Frankly, as we’ve progressed I’ve seen the benefits of having technical knowledge.”

LegaltechNews, Oct. 25, 2018

In throwing its hat into the ring with Florida, North Carolina has taken a giant step toward ensuring tech competency in its lawyers. The new NC State Bar rule reads as follows:

“Technology training” shall mean a program, or a segment of a program, devoted to education on information technology (IT) or cybersecurity (see N.C. Gen. Stat. §143B-1320(a)(11), or successor statutory provision, for a definition of “information technology”), including education on an information technology product, device, platform, application, or other tool, process, or methodology. To be eligible for CLE accreditation as a technology training program, the program must satisfy the accreditation standards in Rule .1519 of this subchapter: specifically, the primary objective of the program must be to increase the participant’s professional competence and proficiency as a lawyer. Such programs include, but are not limited to, education on the following: a) an IT tool, process, or methodology designed to perform tasks that are specific or uniquely suited to the practice of law; b) using a generic IT tool process or methodology to increase the efficiency of performing tasks necessary to the practice of law; c) the investigation, collection, and introduction of social media evidence; d) e-discovery; e) electronic filing of legal documents; f) digital forensics for legal investigation or litigation; and g) practice management software. See Rule .1602 of this subchapter for additional information on accreditation of technology training programs.

Still, I can imagine that 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 and our SavvyAcademy Learning Management System comes fully loaded with all the training materials and learning paths that your firm will need to improve test results (and client deliverables).

Why wait for your state to mandate training?

This ship is sailing, so to speak. Clients are increasingly demanding proof (such as LTA certification) that the attorneys and firms they hire are technologically competent. Not only does tech competence ensure that a client’s billable hours are spent on real work (not formatting a table of contents), but also helps provide peace of mind that their sensitive data is safe.

Are you interested in learning more about LTA? Contact me today for a free demo and a great discussion of how you can bring your firm up to the ABA’s Model Rules. When your state jumps on the bandwagon, you can say, “I already checked that box.”


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