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If you are a lawyer or if you are hiring a lawyer, technology competence, often shortened to tech competence, is a term that you should be aware of. Recently, changes have been recommended in regards to tech competence and attorneys. Here is everything that you need to know about this topic.
Lawyers have always had a duty to be competent in the areas of law they practice. However, in 2012, the American Bar Association made a change to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct. The change being made was to make it clear that attorneys need to take steps to be competent in regards to technology. This change stated the lawyers need to stay competent in regards to the benefits and risks associated with technology that is relevant to their firm and line of work. Each state was free to adopt or reject this change, and to date, 36 states have adopted this change.
A committee met and issued a report in February of 2019 that recommended revisions be made to the current Rules of Professional Conduct in regards to technology. The changes that the committee recommended making were designed to make it clear that it is an attorney’s job and legal responsibility to ensure that they are competently representing their client. The changes that are being recommended to ensure that law firms and lawyers understand that this duty reaches into the technology that they use. The committee wanted to make it clear that it is a lawyer’s duty to ensure that client information is confidential, and as such, they are responsible for protecting against unauthorized access. Unauthorized access can occur if a database gets hacked or emails are intercepted.
The committee designed with making changes issued its report in February of 2019. The public was given the opportunity to comment and provide feedback through April 19, 2019. Currently, the recommendation is being reviewed by the D.C. Bar Board of Governors. Ultimately, they will decide if the recommendations should be passed on to the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, who ultimately sets the rules of practice within the District of Columbia.
While the changes in regards to tech competence and lawyers have not yet been approved, it is expected that it will be. It is also expected that many of the 36 states who adopted the tech competence changes will follow the District of Columbia’s lead and adopted these rules. As such, you may find yourself wondering what this means for you as a law firm, lawyer or individual or business looking to hire a law firm. If you are a lawyer or law firm, you need to ensure that you are taking steps to protect any personal client information. You need to ensure your website is secure, that you are sending all confidential emails in an encrypted manner, and take steps to ensure your cloud is secure. As a client, you want to ask law firms what steps they have taken to ensure the technology they use is secure.
As technology advances, new changes will likely be made to tech competence and the way it impacts attorneys and law firms. Being proactive and ensuring the technology you use is secure is the best way to meet your requirements under the new guidelines.