In August 2013, the American Bar Association added a new resolution to the Model Rules of Professional Conduct meant to keep lawyers out of the technological brambles. Luddites no more! The ABA addressed a problem arising in the legal field: when lawyers don’t understand technology, they risk inadvertently failing to adequately represent their clients. You’ve heard the horror stories of documents being erroneously produced because an attorney didn’t understand how to lock down edited PDFs, or the attorney that did not check their email often enough and missed an important notice from the court.
The ABA’s edit was small, a simple addition to “Maintaining Competence:” To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education, and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.
What Does This Mean For Me?
State and local bar associations around the country are filling their continuing legal education courses with sections on technology. There is a significant difference between sitting through an hour-long lecture on encryption services in order to receive your requisite CLE hours, and actually learning functional skills that make you computer literate. Attend as many CLEs as you can or want to attend, but listen, take notes, and consider how to apply the information to your law practice.
Sit Down With IT
Whether you have an in-house IT department or use an outsourced service, schedule an appointment to sit down with them and discuss the technology in your law office. Ask these professionals to describe the technology in your office, how it is interacting with your server or the cloud, and what safeguards the firm is taking to keep information confidential.
Many outsourced IT firms will also run a security audit on your server – whether it is remote or in your office. Take that opportunity to learn about the security of your law firm’s technology.
Don’t Forget Your Staff
When it comes to redacting documents for production during discovery, who performs that task? Probably your paralegal; and if your paralegal doesn’t know how to lock down a PDF after making redactions, you are opening yourself up to potential malpractice liability exposure. While it’s imperative that you understand how to utilize technology correctly, it will save time and money to have staff trained as well.
Create a biannual training day for your entire firm. Ask your staff what they need to learn better and organize an entire day of learning. It can be anything from updated best practices for using the document management software to learning shortcuts in Microsoft Word to learning how to build a table of authorities for the first time.
If your law practice is as busy as most, you may feel that your business has fallen too far behind the legal technology curve to ever catch up. We can offer your practice a technology audit and make recommendations for additions, upgrades, removals within your existing infrastructure. You can contact me at any time. I’m here to help you get back on the technological track.