It's Not Enough to Keep Abreast of
Changes in the Substantive Law
The first entry discusses the ethical obligation to be competent in the use of technology. The second entry discusses increasing efforts by some law schools to teach students about the use of technology in law practice.
3. Competence in technology turned from dalliance to necessity.
In August 2012, the American Bar Association voted to amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to make clear that lawyers have a duty to be competent in technology. Specifically, the ABA voted to amend the comment to Model Rule 1.1, governing lawyer competence, to say that, in addition to keeping abreast of changes in the law and its practice, a lawyer should keep abreast of “the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology.” During 2013, we saw several states follow up on the ABA’s action. Delaware became the first state to formally adopt a duty of technology competence and it created a Commission on Law and Technology to help lawyers comply. Massachusetts is considering adoption of this rule. And in Pennsylvania on Nov. 21, amendments took effect to that state’s professional conduct rules to comport with the ABA model rule.
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8. Law schools discovered legal technology.
This was the year in which a second wave of law schools began to discover the importance of teaching and studying legal technology. The first wave came years ago when some truly innovative law schools started programs focused on legal technology. They include Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology, William & Mary Law School’s Center for Legal and Court Technology, Sturm College of Law at the University of Denver and, of course, Cornell’s Legal Information Institute. But in the decade or so since those programs launched, there has not been much new coming out of law schools. Until this year, when several schools took steps to recognize the undeniable importance of technology in legal education. A good example is Suffolk University Law School in Boston, which last April launched its Institute on Law Practice Technology & Innovation and then last month announced one of the country’s first formal law school concentrations in legal technology and innovation. This year also brought the launch of the Center for Law Practice Technology at Florida Coastal School of Law and the establishment of a joint degree program in law and technology at the University of Pennsylvania. Not to be overlooked is the ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State University College of Law, founded in the spring of 2012.