Longtime attorneys can no longer be afraid to use technology as part of their practice. Not only will it leave you behind the competition if you don’t embrace the latest electronic innovations, but you could get yourself into trouble. Before the technology boom, lawyers could shrug their shoulders and claim technology ignorance. Not any more. In Pennsylvania on November 21, 2013, the state’s Rules of Professional conduct were amended. Now, every attorney is required to keep informed of changes in the law and its practice. This includes knowledge of the risks and benefits related to technology and their cases.
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct
The Model Rules of Professional Conduct were formally approved before Pennsylvania adopted them, in 2012, by the American Bar Association. These rules clearly state that lawyers have a duty to be competent of the law, its practice and in technology. The Model Rules are a guideline for states to form their own rules of professional conduct, just as Pennsylvania has. Every state has the freedom to reject, modify or adopt the Model Rules. The state’s high court must first adopt the Model Rules in order for technology competence to apply to attorneys in any given state. So far, 13 states have adopted the revised comment to Rule 1.1.
Comment 8 to Rule 1.1
The American Bar Association’s House of Delegates voted to amend Comment 8 to Model Rule 1.1. This comment pertains to competence in the area of technology by the attorney.
Pennsylvania’s chose to adopt the amendment, and in a nutshell it tells us that lawyers have to stay abreast of the latest in technology and engage in all required continuing education in the lawyer’s legal specialty.
Pennsylvania’s Rule 1.6
Pennsylvania has also amended its Rule 1.6, Confidentiality of Client Information. As we know, confidentiality is one of the most sacred duties that attorneys carry out for their clients. With technology such as social media sites, blogging and cloud storage, new limits must be set forth as contained in the Confidentiality of Client Information rule. Lawyers now have a responsibility to keep any information pertaining to their client and their case off of these sites and keep their electronic information secure. (There have been unfortunate cases where unethical attorneys have attacked people via their social media site that their clients have been battling in court.) There is also another amendment that has been interpreted to mean that all Pennsylvania lawyers should at least have an email address.
How Technology Helps Attorneys Stay Compliant with the Law
Lawyers can use technology to help keep them updated with the latest technological innovations as they pertain to the legal field. Attorneys can set up social media pages on sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter to network with other attorneys and keep each other up on the latest workshops about legal software and electronic advancements. Continuing education can be done remotely with tools such as video chat, Skype etc., allowing the attorneys more access to education tools. Webinars are excellent ways for legal professionals to learn about new technologies that are used in their field. The more the attorneys use technology, the more they will naturally learn about it for compliance with the amendments to the Model Rules.