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Tide Rises on Lawyers' Duty of Tech Competence

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By William Vogeler, Esq. on September 11, 2017 4:00 PM

The wave started five years ago when the American Bar Association approved a new rule of professional conduct requiring lawyers to be technology competent.

As Nebraska has recently adopted the rule, the competency wave has crested and is about to break. Now, twenty eight states have raised the bar for attorneys to be technologically proficient.

It's only a matter of time before every lawyer has to take a technology class. So, you may as well get started before the ethics wave crashes.

Tech Training

Florida has already mandated technical training for lawyers in the Sunshine State. To ease them into it, the Florida Supreme Court said attorneys may retain non-lawyer advisers with "established technological competence in the relevant field" to provide competent representation.

Robert Ambrogi, who writes about legal tech, says it's about time attorneys caught up. He recently gave a four-hour presentation for the Florida Bar on legal technology ethics.

"Technology has irrevocably changed law practice in fundamental ways. No one can argue with the truth of that," he wrote for Above the Law. "Yet, five years later, far too many lawyers have failed to keep pace."

Law schools and bar associations are helping. In Texas, the state bar foundation donated more than $1 million to a public law library for computers and other equipment to help lawyers learn technical skills.

Tech Learning

Florida State University College of Law offers distance learning with related links. The website features technology blogs, videos on legal education, technology and law practice.

The Center for Computer-Assistance Legal Instruction, for example, hosts online training, seminars and projects. The non-profit organization has posted all its webinars on YouTube for free, with no time limits.

CALI is best known for its online tutorials. Nearly every U.S. law school is a member of the organization.

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